Atheist Patrick Greene, Who Threatened to Sue Over Courthouse Nativity Scene, Sparks New Controversy

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An atheist who threatened toPatrick Greene, atheist activist sue Henderson County, Texas, over a nativity scene displayed on its courthouse steps last winter is sparking controversy once again. But this time, the brouhaha surrounds a supposed act of kindness.

After Patrick Greene of San Antonio (pictured at left) suffered health problems, which caused him to back off of his lawsuit last year, a church in the Henderson County seat of Athens raised hundreds of dollars to support him through the tough time. As a show of thanks, Greene bought a decorative star and donated it to Henderson County in March for its nativity scene. But Greene is also demanding that a homemade sign (pictured above) be displayed along with his star, reading: "This star is a gift from two Texas atheists, Merry Christmas."

The two people the sign refers to are Greene and his wife.

Greene told WFAA-TV in Dallas that he and his wife were genuinely moved by the goodwill of the church.

"We were very appreciative," he said.

Greene argued that his star and sign is meant as an expression of gratitude and to tame tensions between atheists and Christians, even though he's not ruling out a lawsuit over that too.

"We can't risk any more animosity toward atheists by letting people think Christians are the ones that put the nativity scene there, and that Christians were the ones that put the star there," he said. "If people are insulted by my sign that said 'atheist,' then they have no intention of fostering the Christmas message, because goodwill toward men goes both ways." (It looks as if Greene again considers himself an atheist, after it was reported earlier this year that he had converted to Christianity -- followed by accounts that he'd again turned away.



He said his gift is also designed to make up for other atheist actions against the nativity scene. Last year, the national Freedom From Religion Foundation also threatened to sue Henderson County over its nativity scene and demanded that a banner be added to the display that read: "At this Season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Henderson County denied the foundation's request.

Greene told WFAA-TV that the foundation's move also prompted him to buy the star and create the sign.

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Atheist Patrick Greene, Who Threatened to Sue Over Courthouse Nativity Scene, Sparks New Controversy

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What the homeowner did: Sarah Cohen's 3-year-old daughter, Emerson, drew on the sidewalk using chalk.

The HOA's response: Chalk art potentially offends, disturbs or interferes with "the peaceful enjoyment" of the community and is not allowed. "The association is trying to go down a  path of 'do no harm,' " an attorney representing the HOA said.

Outcome: The issue will be brought to a vote at a future HOA meeting. In the meantime, Cohen plans on continuing to let her daughter draw on the sidewalks. "It's summertime, and God forbid my daughter is drawing flowers, her name and hearts," said Cohen.

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What the homeowner did: Tiffany Veloudis built a playhouse for her 3-year-old son, Cooper, who has cerebral palsy, on the instructions of the toddler’s therapist. It cost the family $5,000 to construct.

The HOA's response: Demanded that the playhouse be removed and ordered the Veloudis family to pay $50 for every day the playhouse remains in their yard.

Outcome: After the story garnered national attention, the association decided the playhouse could stay until a solution could be worked out. State representative Richard Henderson has submitted a bill to enable homeowners to build small structures for therapy purposes with doctor approval, regardless of HOA rules.

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Outcome: The HOA sued the Burrs when they refused to remove the sign. The Burrs argue that other homeowners have signs in their yards, and that the enforcement of the rule is “selective.” They also are trying to meet with the HOA to discuss possible revisions to the rule.

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The HOA's response: The flag violates the HOA’s rules on flagpoles. It offered to put the flag at the entrance to the development instead.

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What the homeowner did: U. S. Army National Guard Capt. Michael Clauer and his wife, May, failed to pay $977.55 in HOA dues.

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"You don't just push yourself into some place and insult people while you're doing it," Greene said of the foundation. "We thought it was arrogant for Freedom From Religion Foundation to insult people just to make a point."

But Greene isn't necessarily ready to retreat from battle. He said that if Henderson County refuses to display his star and sign, that he will likely bring a lawsuit against the county claiming that the entire display violates the Texas Constitution.

Controversial nativity scene in TexasClint Davis, the Henderson County attorney, told WFAA-TV that the county is reviewing Greene's request and a judge will make the ultimate call as to whether his star and sign will be displayed.

"Typically, as we just did with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we have not allowed banners or signs of any kind. The decorations we have ... they are simply decorations," Davis said.

"The county's viewpoint is that we are in complete compliance with all the laws and all the regulations," he continued. "I've yet to have anybody from Henderson County that's contacted me that said, 'I've been personally offended by any display on county property.' It's all been from people on the outside."

Keep Athens Beautiful, the group behind the nativity display, said that plans are proceeding as normal to erect the nativity scene next week, and Christmas celebrations will kick off Dec. 1.

10 PHOTOS
Most Ridiculous HOA Disputes
See Gallery
Atheist Patrick Greene, Who Threatened to Sue Over Courthouse Nativity Scene, Sparks New Controversy

Location: Stapleton, Colo.

What the homeowner did: Sarah Cohen's 3-year-old daughter, Emerson, drew on the sidewalk using chalk.

The HOA's response: Chalk art potentially offends, disturbs or interferes with "the peaceful enjoyment" of the community and is not allowed. "The association is trying to go down a  path of 'do no harm,' " an attorney representing the HOA said.

Outcome: The issue will be brought to a vote at a future HOA meeting. In the meantime, Cohen plans on continuing to let her daughter draw on the sidewalks. "It's summertime, and God forbid my daughter is drawing flowers, her name and hearts," said Cohen.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

Location: Spring, Texas

What the homeowner did: Nick and Jeni Dreis took home a 6-month-old red kangaroo as a vocational training animal for their 16-year-old daughter, Kala, who has Down’s Syndrome.

The HOA's response: The family should “immediately remove the kangaroo from the property, as it is not a household pet nor can it be maintained for any business purposes.”

Outcome: In the wake of widespread public support for the Dreises, the HOA reversed its position. “The letter should never have been sent,” said Jeff Crilley of the Estates of Legend Ranch Homeowners Association. “[HOA officials] were unaware that the kangaroo was being used for therapy purposes.”

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

Location: Portsmouth, N.H.

What the homeowner did: Planted perennial flowers in her yard. Kimberly Bois claimed she had the plants in her yard before the condo board even existed and had permission from the developer to plant them.

The HOA's response: Sent the homeowner 13 certified letters demanding she remove the plants, starting with a cease-and-desist order and escalating to thousands of dollars in fines and penalties. "It's not about do you like these flowers or don't you," said the condo association’s attorney, Sandy Roberts. "It's a question of was it authorized and is it permanent."

Outcome: Condo association filed a lawsuit against Bois to pay $4,500 in back fines and $8,000 in attorney’s fees.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

Location: Stratford, Conn.

What the homeowner did: Barbara Cadranel put a mezuzah on the doorframe of her apartment.

The HOA's response: Threatened to impose a $50-a-day fine until the religious door fixture is removed.

Outcome: The condo association agreed that Cadranel could hang her mezuzah and rescinded all penalties and fees against her. It also said it will allow residents to place mezuzahs and other religious symbols on doorframes without requiring advance approval.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

Location: Lexington, Ky.

What the homeowner did: Tiffany Veloudis built a playhouse for her 3-year-old son, Cooper, who has cerebral palsy, on the instructions of the toddler’s therapist. It cost the family $5,000 to construct.

The HOA's response: Demanded that the playhouse be removed and ordered the Veloudis family to pay $50 for every day the playhouse remains in their yard.

Outcome: After the story garnered national attention, the association decided the playhouse could stay until a solution could be worked out. State representative Richard Henderson has submitted a bill to enable homeowners to build small structures for therapy purposes with doctor approval, regardless of HOA rules.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

Location: Bossier City, La.

What the homeowner did: Jodi and Timothy Burr put up a front yard banner supporting their son, Corey, a lance corporal in the Marines who was serving in Afghanistan at the time.

The HOA's response: Told the family it was breaking the HOA's rule prohibiting all signs from public display.

Outcome: The HOA sued the Burrs when they refused to remove the sign. The Burrs argue that other homeowners have signs in their yards, and that the enforcement of the rule is “selective.” They also are trying to meet with the HOA to discuss possible revisions to the rule.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

Location: Evans, Ga.

What the homeowner did: A nonprofit homebuilding group planned to build a house, free of charge, for Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens, who was paralyzed in Iraq and is unable to speak.

The HOA's response: The HOA stopped the construction of the home. It argued that the Homes for Our Troops foundation didn’t file the proper paperwork. 

Outcome: The Gittens left the development and are exploring other places to build the home. Homes for Our Troops has agreed to continue the project in a new location.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

Location: Macedonia, Ohio

What the homeowner did: Fred Quigly, a retired Army chaplain and minister who served during the Vietnam War, put up an American flag in his front yard.

The HOA's response: The flag violates the HOA’s rules on flagpoles. It offered to put the flag at the entrance to the development instead.

Outcome: The HOA relented and granted Quigly the right to fly his flag in his front yard.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate

Location: Frisco, Texas

What the homeowner did: U. S. Army National Guard Capt. Michael Clauer and his wife, May, failed to pay $977.55 in HOA dues.

The HOA's response: Foreclosed on the home, which was owned free and clear by the Clauers, and had it sold at auction.

Outcome: After a lawsuit, the Clauers reclaimed the title to the home.

Read the story on AOL Real Estate.

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See also:
HOA 'Steals' Homeowner's Virgin Mary Statue
Condo Association and Resident Battle Over Religious Freedom

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