Week of December 5, 2011

Most of the time, 5 Things is for busy area residents to catch up on the week’s big stories. This time, however, since just about everyone has heard that a Wisconsin-based organization is working to get Henderson County commissioners to remove a nativity scene from the courthouse lawn, we’ve decided to list the 5 Things you need to know about the issue.

Story No. 1 – Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demands action: Monday afternoon, Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders received a letter, addressed to all commissioners, from the FFRF demanding that the commissioners “take immediate action to ensure that no religious displays are on city or county property.”
Why it is important: The threat of a lawsuit was implied by the letter, even if it wasn’t specifically stated.
Learn more: The story was reported by The Malakoff News, and the Athens Daily Review. After that the story was picked up by every media outlet from Dallas to Tyler and beyond.

Story No. 2 – County responds: County Attorney Clint Davis framed the county’s written response, saying: “Henderson County believes that it is in complete compliance with the requirements of the Constitution and acting very much in accord with prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings.”
Why it is important: Mainly because the FFRF, after reading Davis’s response, changed the direction of their legal argument.
Learn more: The Malakoff News  and the Athens Daily Review both had the story.

Story No. 3 – Social media drives story: While undoubtedly important, the issue went from a local to a regional story because of the deluge of comments from area residents on Facebook and media websites. Literally thousands of comments were posted in two days.
Why it is important: First, because it gives you a way to follow the twists and turns of the story. Second, because the entire episode is a lesson in the power of social media.
Learn more: Jayson Larson at the Athens Review took an interesting look at the first few hours on Facebook after the story broke.

Story No. 4 – National media pays attention: By Thursday morning, Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders and FBC Malakoff Pastor Nathan Lorick were on the Fox News Channel. Friday, Lorick was interviewed on the Glenn Beck radio show.
Why it is important: Any time a local gets on national television or radio, it’s news. It also is an example of just how big the story has become.
Learn more: Google “Nathan Lorick” and then click the news button. As of Thursday night there were 52 stories, including pieces from Fox News, the Washington Post, and St. Louis Today.

Story No. 5 – Pastors schedule rally: There will be a Henderson County Nativity Rally on the Courthouse Square from noon-1 p.m. next Saturday, Dec. 17. Today (Dec. 9), a group of more than 70 church leaders from around the county showed up at a meeting to help plan for the rally.
Why it is important: A few reasons – first, this has the possibility of blowing up into something really, really huge; second, nothing in this county has brought 70-plus Christian leaders together before; and third, there is a possibility of a live nativity scene on the square, which is always cool.
Learn more: Check out the event Facebook page here.

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