The Freedom From Religion Foundation's lawsuit against gubernatorial censorship of its Bill of Rights display in the Texas Capitol will proceed, following a ruling by a federal judge in Austin today.
FFRF placed the display to counter a Christian nativity scene, which was not ordered removed.
FFRF's free speech claim and our Establishment Clause claim will move forward, and the state's motion for summary judgment against FFRF was denied. FFRF's motion for summary for judgment was also denied, with the judge saying issues of fact remain unresolved.
The issue before the judge is whether the governor engaged in viewpoint discrimination when he had the display removed. Although FFRF had a permit and legislative sponsorship for a display to counter a Christian nativity, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered it removed.
"We're pleased our federal lawsuit has been ruled to have merit," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. It appears there will either be a bench trial, or else an appeal of the judge's ruling.
The judgment ruled against FFRF's claims based on equal protection, unbridled discretion and due process— not the central aspects of the case.
FFRF's "nativity" celebrates the Bill of Rights, which was adopted Dec. 15, 1791. It depicts founders Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, along with the Statue of Liberty, gazing adoringly at a crèche containing the Bill of Rights.
The case, FFRF v, Abbott, Case No. A-16-CA-00233-SS, is in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division.
FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with more than 25,000 members, including more than 1,000 members in Texas.