Judge: Texas Gov. Abbott’s removal of exhibit was improper

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge has determined that Gov. Greg Abbott engaged in improper censorship when he ordered a mock Nativity scene be removed from the Capitol in 2015.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled late Friday that Abbott violated the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Sparks also said the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation can seek to depose Abbott about his motives for removing the exhibit.

The foundation sued Abbott last year over the removal of the display, which showed Benjamin Franklin, the Statue of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington peering down at the Bill of Rights in a manger.

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Abbott called it a spiteful message of “tasteless sarcasm.”

The State Preservation Board had approved the display, which was set up in the Capitol’s basement rotunda a week before Christmas.