As many as 5,000 attended a rally in a small Texas community to show their support for a Nativity scene under attack by a Wisconsin-based atheist group, according to a minister who organized the event.
“We are humbled at the turnout of the crowd,” said Nathan Lorick, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Malakoff and one of the organizers of Saturday’s rally in Athens.
“We believe that God led us to do this and so we knew he was up to something great,” he told Fox News & Commentary in an email message. “This message is resonating in the hearts of people all over the country. This was a real statement to the nation that Christians are tired of the persecution and suppression. We want all to know that we are ready to contend for the faith.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group based in Wisconsin, sent a letter to Henderson County explaining that a local resident had complained and they wanted the Nativity removed from the courthouse lawn.
The FFRF alleged that the Nativity sent a message of intimidation and exclusion to non-Christians.
But their attack prompted a tremendous outcry not just in Henderson County, but across the nation.
The Texas Attorney General offered to defend the county in the event the atheists sued, arguing that the county has no legal obligation to remove the Nativity scene from the courthouse grounds.
“Our message to the atheists is don’t mess with Texas and our Nativity scenes or the Ten Commandments,” Attorney General Greg Abbott told Fox News & Commentary. “I want the Freedom From Religion Foundation to know that our office has a history of defending religious displays in this state.”
Attorney General Abbott said the organization is trying to “bully local governmental bodies” and he said he wanted to make sure Henderson County knows “there is a person, a lawyer and an organization in this state that has their back, that has the law, that has the muscle and firepower to go toe-to-toe with these organizations that come from out of state trying to bully governmental bodies into tearing down things like Nativity scenes.”
Pastor Lorick said Saturday’s rally was peaceful and included speeches, patriotic music, Christmas carols and prayers. Nevertheless, he said they intended to send a message to the nation.
“It is time for Christians in America to stand up, show up and speak up,” he said. “We believe that it is time to lead America back to the biblical and Christian values and morals that have made our nation so great since its birth.”
Pastor Lorick said he’s received hundreds of calls and email from across the country — and he was overwhelmed by the size of Saturday’s crowd.
“I do hope that people across the nation will take note and know that they too can stand up and speak up,” Lorick said. “All I can tell you is that my eyes have been opened to a large number of people who want to see us fight for our faith.”