Amidst what she believed to be a surge in “Islamophobia” following Donald Trump’s harsh comments about Muslims and ISIS, a Michigan woman took to the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, hoping to combat ignorance and redeem the religion of Islam.
Her experiment, however, yielded some unexpected results.
Mona Haydar, a native of Flint Township, was tired of hearing all of the anti-Muslim rhetoric being thrown around by Trump and other critics of Islam, so she decided to do something about it herself.
Image source: MLive/Mona Haydar
“There is definitely fear [in America], and I want to talk about it, because it’s actually misplaced and misguided — I am really nice!” Haydar told the Boston Globe.
Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, were visiting Robins’ family in Massachusetts when Haydar said he got the idea to set up a booth and invite others to “Talk to a Muslim,” MLive reported.
“My husband Sebastian was inspired one night and remembered an episode of ‘This American Life’ where an Iraqi guy sets up shop with a sign that (read) ‘Talk to an Iraqi,'” Haydar told MLive. “So he thought why not do something similar.”
Haydar and Robins set up their booth outside a Cambridge library last Friday and Saturday with panels that read “Ask a Muslim” and “Talk to a Muslim,” the Globe reported. The couple supplied donuts, coffee and fruit to draw in the crowds.
“We just wanted to talk to people, and we didn’t see any harm in doing that,” Haydar told the Globe. “We are just normal people.” Haydar told the Globe.
But what happened next surprised Haydar.
According to the Globe, Haydar’s experiment sparked a series of conversations about religion, politics, history and even sports.
If fear and intolerance of Muslims in America has been on the rise lately, Haydar’s interactions with Cambridge locals did not reflect it. Her unexpected big takeaway was that “the community is loving.”
Though Haydar was hesitant at first “because of all the Donald Trump rhetoric,” she learned something during the experiment that confirmed her personal beliefs about humanity.
“I am love,” Haydar told the Globe. “All people at their cores are love. Some do bad things and stray from that, but ultimately I am good and kind because we all are. I am a reflection of my community. My human community.”
Haydar, whose experience has inspired her to set up another booth in the future, had positive things to say about Americans as a whole:
“We believe in what this country was built on,” Haydar told the Globe. “We believe in the dream of the Founding Fathers. Yes, we are largely a community with more recent immigrant roots than other Americans, but that doesn’t make us inferior. Every person in this country came from somewhere else except for my Native American sisters and brothers.”
(H/T: The Boston Globe)
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The city of Wadena, Minnesota, has received a lot of press this holiday season, but one woman thinks there is something the media overlooked.
Back in November, city officials voted to remove a cherished nativity display from a local park after the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist activist group, threatened legal action.
Every year, the tiny city of roughly 4,000 would set up the beloved nativity in Burlington Northern Park, but the trouble began last year when the display was moved to a central location, TheBlaze reported previously.
“They were offended that we had put it out on city property,” Mayor George Deiss said. “When something is put up that many years it becomes a tradition to the city.”
But just recently a woman named Joan Anderson emailed TheBlaze, indicating that there is much more to this story.
Anderson, an Illinois native, was in Minnesota visiting her brother in a nearby town and decided to make a detour to see if there was any Christmas spirit left in Wadena.
What she found was what she describes as “a blue-collar town full of the Love of God and the birth of Jesus.”
The town, founded in 1858, has a long history of faith, with nine churches to serve its minuscule population.
Photo by Joan Anderson.
Anderson drove past many of the churches before stopping for lunch at the local diner, Boondoggles. In her email, she described the friendly service she received and the unique scene she witnessed.
“These were hard-working farmers, laborers, truckers working hard to put food on their table and keep Christ in Christmas,” Anderson wrote. “But there was something different — it took me a while to put my finger on it.”
Then, while glancing around at the packed diner, she realized: not a single customer had a cell phone out. She noticed that people were talking to their spouses, laughing with their children and talking about their Christmas shopping.
Many of the patrons prayed before their meal. Anderson described the scene as “surreal” and “fantastic.”
As for the nativity scene debacle, Anderson discovered that there were a few things the FFRF might have overlooked.
After leaving the diner, Anderson took a stroll down the whole two blocks that comprise downtown Wadena. To her delight, she saw Nativity scenes in “nearly every shop window.”
And there’s more. According to Anderson, Wadena is a regular Christmas wonderland.
The town square has a gazebo where, “every single day,” a different family rents the space and erects a different nativity scene.
“I started crying with joy,” Anderson wrote, calling the experience “absolutely magical.”
The diner where she had eaten lunch was streaming Christmas music from two speakers atop its roof, and “every person that passed by” wished her a “Merry Christmas.”
Anderson joined TheBlaze’s Mike Opelka on Wilmington, Delaware radio station, WILM. Listen here:[audio mp3="http://www.theblaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Joan-Phone-Call-smaller.mp3"][/audio]
The hopeful story of this tiny city is best captured in Anderson’s own words:
The Atheist Grinch tried to take Christ out of Christmas but the Whos down in Whoville, would not have it. Christmas came, it came bigger and better than before!
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The American Life League, a group opposed to abortion, praised the victory of pro-life Christmas carolers outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Falls Church, Va.
ALL released a new video of the carolers late Wednesday, showing the carolers opposed to abortion singing Christmas carols outside the clinic, though not speaking directly about abortion. The group videoed the caroling after having been disbursed by police the previous day.
“Expressing the joy of Christmas in songs honoring the Lord of life is not a threat to those who appreciate the value of family, but we understand that to Planned Parenthood such ideas are anathema to their evil agenda,” American Life League President Judie Brown said in statement. “We are thankful that in this case at least the Lord’s victory has been affirmed. That is what it means to build a culture of life: to stand always and everywhere for Him and His truth.”
After being told about the noise ordinance, the legal team appealed to authorities, who determined the noise ordinance didn’t apply in this case. The ALL press release said, “The carolers returned two days before Christmas to sing and celebrate the birth of Christ, and to pray for an end to abortion.”
Here’s video of police confronting the carolers.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpWEa85iZbc&w=650&h=366]
Here is the video after the carolers returned.
Posted by American Life League on Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a group of Jewish extremists “a danger to Israeli society” following the broadcast Wednesday night of video taken at a wedding where guests appeared to celebrate the burning to death of a Palestinian baby.
“The shocking pictures that were broadcast this evening show the true face of a group that constitutes a danger to Israeli society and to the security of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Channel 10 reported that those attending the wedding where guns and knives were brandished included friends of men detained by Israeli security forces suspected of being connected to a July arson attack. (Image source: Channel 10)
Israel’s Channel 10 news obtained cellphone video that was taken at the wedding, in which extremist Israelis passed around army-issued automatic weapons and let children also dance with the guns. Other guests could be seen waving knives, and one man held what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail.
The most shocking part of the video appeared to show a wedding guest repeatedly stabbing a photo of 18-month-old baby Ali Dawabsha who was burned to death along with his parents in a July 31 arson attack on the family home in the village of Duma in the West Bank. Israeli investigators believe Jewish extremists were behind the attack.
“We are not prepared to accept people who deny the laws of the state and do not view themselves as subject to them,” Netanyahu said.
Channel 10 marked with a red circle the moment in the video (around 1:12) that guests began stabbing the photo.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfkd0r1yY10&w=650&h=366]
Israel’s Shin Bet security service arrested an unspecified number of Jewish suspects in connection with the arson attack and has reportedly been treating them in a similar manner to Palestinian terrorism suspects, which has elicited condemnation from their lawyers and supporters.
Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed Wednesday that the treatment in custody included preventing them from meeting with their lawyers and depriving them of sleep.
Answering criticism about the Shin Bet’s treatment of the detainees in an attempt to elicit confessions, Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party called the attack an act of terrorism.
“They burned a family in their sleep,” Bennett said in a speech Wednesday. “They want to tear apart the state of Israel. These are terrorists.”
Channel 10 reported that the wedding where the video was taken was of a couple “known very well in the extreme right wing,” adding that among the friends of the newlyweds were also friends of those arrested in connection with the arson attack.
Reporting on the suspects’ identity is subject to a court gag order in Israel; however, the U.S. Jewish newspaper the Forward reported that one of the suspects holds both U.S. and Israeli citizenship.
We live in an era that seems to be full of more despair and hopelessness than any time in recent memory. As we look around and see the increase in violence and poverty, just to name a few, many of us wonder what can be done to get our country back on track. It seems that with every step forward we take, it is inevitable that we eventually takes three steps back.
As the search for true change continues, there is one area quietly being reformed from the inside out – correctional facilities.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Investing in the incarcerated is a ministry seldom considered in today’s society. It isn’t as sexy as a mission trip to foreign countries nor is it as accessible as serving a meal at your local homeless shelter. Don’t get me wrong, all of those ministries are needed and do amazing work; but the need for sharing God’s love inside prison walls is just as imperative, yet is often overlooked.
Consider some of these facts:
These statistics impact all of us, even if we don’t personally know someone in prison. After all, those incarcerated will one day reintegrate back into the public, becoming our neighbors, coworkers and fellow citizens.
To make a lasting change, we must begin by building into these incarcerated men and women; instead of turning a blind eye.
There are some wonderful organizations around the country doing exactly that by bringing the love and grace of Jesus Christ into correctional facilities. For my family and I, working with the incarcerated has become one of our missions in life. That is why we serve with Kairos Prison Ministries and founded The Four-Seven.
Through these organizations, we have the honor of working one on one with incarcerated men and women. And what we have found is not surprising to those who have been a part of these ministries – it works.
For many of these men and women, they have never experienced unconditional love. They have never experienced forgiveness and grace. They have never experienced a supportive community. As many of them will tell you, like generational poverty, incarceration in their families has become a generational norm and expectation.
It is a struggle that many are not equipped to overcome.
But there is hope in the darkness.
When I sit and think of the times when God has transformed my life the most, I realize it has been when I am completely broken and totally lost. When I feel despair in my life, I become desperate for hope and saving. For many of us, that is the case.
That is why I believe the work of God is so powerful in our prison systems. These institutions are full of broken men and women who, like many of us on the outside, may feel lost and hopeless. And for God, they are the perfect clay to be molded.
It is important for us on the outside to show God’s love to those who are locked away. And we can only do that through community.
When it comes to sharing the Word of God, prisons are no different than city streets around the country – beating someone over the head with a Bible will accomplish nothing. Yet showing compassion, patience and love has the power to change lives.
If you don’t believe me, take it from a fellow who is currently serving time behind bars. This gentleman is engaging with these organizations of believers who come into the prison weekly to fellowship and share the Word of God. Here is what he shared with me (just one of many testimonies):
“[My life] has changed in so many ways in the nine years I have been locked up. First off, I’ve come to realize there is more to life than going to the bars every night getting drunk and partying. Family time and spending more time building these relationships are more important. Also, doing the right thing makes me feel good on the inside. Helping others brings you up and maybe helps lead them in the right direction.
Also, it helped show me there are people out there who really do care more for me than those ‘friends’ who were out there having fun with [me]. They’ve showed me that Jesus does love me no matter what sins I’ve committed and I’m not lost.”
How much of a change do these types of ministries have inside prisons? Take this for an example – the national recidivism rate (released inmates who re-offend) in the United States is just shy of 50 percent. The recidivism rate in the U.S. among inmates who have participated in the Kairos program? Less than 15 percent.
It works, and it changes lives forever.
These organizations are creating Godly communities in some of the darkest places in our country. And while they are incredibly successful, they are still in desperate need of additional volunteers to help reach more inmates around the country.
“Thank God for ministry that is holistic and meeting the needs of inmates in the prisons,” said prison chaplain Sylvia Moseley. “We need more prison ministries [and volunteers] that have a vision to reach, mind, body and soul, because we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul.”
As daunting as prisons and inmates may sound, God calls us to visit those in prison. Regardless of their crime, regardless of their past and regardless of their faults, they are just like you and I – children of God, worthy of His love.
If we want to change our neighborhoods, change our cities and change our world, we must start taking a strong interest in the lives of incarcerated.
And for those of you thinking this is a ministry you aren’t made for, I leave you with this:
Twenty-five years ago my father gave his heart to Christ – agreeing to do whatever the Lord asked of him, with one exception: working with inmates. My dad has spent the last 23 years sharing God’s love to men inside maximum security prisons.
It doesn’t take “someone special” to change the lives of the incarcerated, it just takes a willing heart.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.
Amid the debate raging in Europe over the arrival of migrants from the predominantly Muslim Middle East and North Africa, British Prime Minister David Cameron emphasized in his Christmas message that the U.K. is a “Christian country” which has flourished due to its Christian values.
Cameron said that on Christmas, “[W]e celebrate the birth of God’s only son, Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope.”
“I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none,” Cameron wrote.
He advised those celebrating the holiday with loved ones to take a moment to “think of those who cannot do the same,” such as those driven from of their homes by the Islamic State group.
“If there is one thing people want at Christmas, it’s the security of having their family around them and a home that is safe. But not everyone has that. Millions of families are spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and [Syrian President Hafez] Assad,” Cameron said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
The prime minister paid special tribute to doctors, nurses and volunteers who give their holidays to care for the sick and needy and military service personnel who are “targeting the terrorists” and defending Britain.
“It is because they face danger that we have peace,” he wrote.
According to a report issued earlier this week by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of migrants who have crossed illegally into Europe this year has passed one million.
President Barack Obama expressed his concern about persecuted Christians around the world, particularly an embattled church in the Middle East facing an onslaught from Islamic State terrorists.
“During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” Obama said in the statement Wednesday. “At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing. Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.”
P (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Obama is vacationing in Hawaii until the new year, but issued the written statement.
“In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL,” the president continued.
“We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations,” Obama said.
He ended the statement, “As the old Christmas carol reminds us: The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Football player Joe Anderson was so determined to continue his NFL career that he showed up a few weeks ago outside of NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas — home of the Texans — and held a cardboard sign proclaiming that he’s not homeless, but is “starving for success.”
Anderson, a 27-year-old wide receiver, recently posted a picture of these antics, along with a message in which he explained his refusal to give up and his reliance upon God after being cut by the Bears following the 2013 season.
“Lord it’s all in your hands, all I know is that I believe it by faith and see it all happening even when it looks like a joke before the eyes of man!” he wrote. “I fill myself with humility and say let your Will be done and use me to allow others to believe in your power!!!!”
He continued, “I’m not looking at my situation with a worldly mindset and that’s what’s gonna seperate me my hunger can’t be matched my heart can’t be compared to.”
#NothingWillStopMe Lord it’s all in your hands, all I know is that I believe it by faith and see it all happening even when it looks like a joke before the eyes of man! I fill myself with humility and say let your Will be done and use me to allow others to believe in your power!!!! Im not looking at my situation with a worldly mindset and that’s what’s gonna seperate me my hunger can’t be matched my heart can’t be compared too, I’m outside the Houston Texans facility every morning, because I kno what type of gift God has blessed me with!!! A lot of people don’t really live out the meaning #WhateverItTakes they just sayin it!!! You gotta really live that junk if you say it and believe in yourself and trust in the Lord, and living it don’t just mean hold up a sign!! Oh there is much pain behind holding this sign an it’s not from bein doubted or the underdog, like how bad do you really want it?? Forget a publicity stunt Boyz is Really HUNGRY out hur dawg to the point if the coach wanna line up I’ll route him up too, to the point if it’s special teams an the REF get in the way I’ll hit him too!! It’s something flickering in my head everyday with much Humility and WILL power to go the extra mile when it come to believing in myself and proven all doubters wrongI’m not just chasing greatness for myself/family but for all the people that lack faith and wanna quit and don’t believe God still moves, DAWG if you gotta DREAM GO GET THAT!! Let ZERO What If’s stand in the way go to the grave on E, not off what someone told you you can’t do…Create and tell your testimony don’t be ashamed of it, do it all for the glory of the kingdom take yourself outta the picture I’m out here on FAITH, it’s bigger than just collecting a check to me straight up! The way I do what I do and why I do what I do isn’t just to score touchdowns and gain fame that’s far from the case I don’t need all that cause I’m already famous in spirit an you can’t get no famous than that, when I get my shot you’ll see what the Lord is truly about to do in my life and I pray wit all my heart it inspires you to never Give up.When your purpose means more than your situation God will give you favor #TAGandREPOST
A photo posted by Joe Anderson (@_joeanderson) on Nov 6, 2015 at 5:38am PST
Anderson went on to explain that he was outside of the Houston Texans stadium holding the sign, because he knows “what type of gift God has blessed” him with. But he said that his attempt to very publicly battle for an opportunity at NFL greatness is also rooted in an urge to inspire others.
“I’m not just chasing greatness for myself/family but for all the people that lack faith and wanna quit and don’t believe God still moves, DAWG if you gotta DREAM GO GET THAT!!” he continued. “Create and tell your testimony don’t be ashamed of it, do it all for the glory of the kingdom take yourself outta the picture I’m out here on FAITH, it’s bigger than just collecting a check to me straight up!”
Anderson’s wishes have apparently been granted, as he was signed to the New York Jets’ practice squad on Tuesday.
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The researcher behind a recently released study that found that the vast majority of evangelicals believe that violence across the Middle East “is a sign that the end times are nearer” told The Church Boys podcast that he was stunned by “how large of a majority believes in this.”
Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland and a fellow with the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, said that he wasn’t at all surprised to find a gap between evangelical Christians and non-evangelical Christians when it comes to agreement that violence is a sign that the end is drawing nearer.
But it was the large proportion of evangelicals — 79 percent — who agreed with this sentiment that truly surprised him; this compared to just 43 percent of non-evangelical Christians.
“[I was] not [surprised] by the gap so much, because I expected the evangelicals to focus on prophecy far more than traditional Christians. We’ve known that, that’s not a particular surprise,” Telhami said. “What surprises though, how large a majority of evangelicals believes in this, that this really is a sign and that something is going to happen in Israel, things are going to turn against Israel as you get closer to end times.”
Listen to Telhami describe the results below at the 42:00 mark:[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/238056596" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height='450' iframe="true" /]
He wondered whether this high proportion — which clearly indicates a widespread embrace of a literal belief in biblical prophecy — is elevated due to the news that has been coming out of the Middle East, along with the related fears that many have over terrorism.
Considering that he doesn’t have any historical material to compare the results to, Telhami said that he can’t be sure, though he plans to continue exploring the fascinating worldview.
One of the most unique facets of Telhami’s research was his quest to separate evangelicals and born-again Christians — two groups that he said some improperly assume are homogeneous in nature.
“Here is the interesting thing, in the information that we have, many of the surveys lumped the two together, born again [and] evangelicals, because people assume they’re very similar and people assume that also that helps with enhancing the size of the sample,” he said. “It turns out there [are] really important differences.”
Telhami continued, “Whereas almost everyone who says they’re evangelical, about 90 percent also say they’re born again Christians, the opposite is not true. Nearly half of those who say they’re born again Christians don’t consider themselves to be evangelicals.”
To point out the differences among these two groups, the researcher said that 75 percent of evangelicals are Republicans, though born-again Christians who do not count themselves as evangelical are actually more Democratic.
As for the massive embrace of the Republican Party among evangelicals, Telhami said that there’s an important consideration to make: that the view of evangelical Christians isn’t necessarily the “norm of the Republican Party.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
“If you … set aside the evangelical Republicans out of the Republican party, they constitute roughly 23 percent of the Republican party, those who say they’re evangelicals,” he said. “If you set them aside, then the rest of the Republican party on matters related to Israel and the Middle East is not different from the rest of the population.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, when it came to more specific details about the end times in Telhami’s study, titled, “American Attitudes Toward the Middle East and Israel,” 5 percent of Christians said that they believe the end times and the return of Christ would happen in their lifetime; 72 percent said that they were not sure if it would unfold soon or in a thousand years.
Find out more about Temhami’s research here.
Front page image via Shutterstock.com.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has enraged a national atheist group by ordering the removal of a mock nativity display inside the state capitol, with the leader of the activist group accusing him of acting both immorally and unconstitutionally.
Abbott, a Republican, took to Twitter on Tuesday to demand the removal of the display, which had been erected by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national atheist organization that is known for posting signs and displays that take aim at the traditional meaning of Christmas.
“Mocking the capitol nativity scene is offensive,” the governor wrote. “I demand removal of satirical ‘nativity scene’ from capitol.”
According to the Texas Tribune, the “winter solstice” display — a cardboard cutout that featured the founding fathers, the Statue of Liberty and the Bill of Rights in a manger — was removed after Abbott’s official complaint, in which he dubbed the mock nativity a “juvenile parody.”
“It has come to my attention that State Preservation Board staff approved an application by the ‘Freedom From Religion Foundation’ to display an exhibit on the ground floor of the Capitol,” Abbott wrote in a Dec. 22 letter to the State Preservation Board. “This juvenile parody violates the Preservation Board’s regulations and should be removed immediately.”
He proceeded to explain point-by-point why he believes that the atheist display has no place inside the Texas state Capitol. Here’s more from Abbott’s letter:
First, far from promoting morals and the general welfare, the exhibit deliberately mocks Christians and Christianity. The Biblical scene of the newly born Jesus Christ lying in a manger in Bethlehem lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. Subjecting an image held sacred by millions of Texans to the Foundation’s tasteless sarcasm does nothing to promote morals and the general welfare. To the contrary, the Foundation’s spiteful message is intentionally designed to belittle and offend, which undermines rather than promotes any public purpose a display promoting the bill of rights might otherwise have had. The Board has allowed and should continue to allow diverse viewpoints to be expressed in Capitol displays. But it has no obligation to approve displays that purposefully mock the sincere religious beliefs of others.
So far, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is anything but elated over the governor’s successful call for the display’s removal.
Freedom From Religion Foundation
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the atheist group said that the display was reportedly removed this week, with co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor lambasting Abbott’s actions.
“Ironically, the very document that our display was honoring is what protects this form of expression,” she said. “Government officials cannot censor our speech because they disagree with our secular message.”
She continued, “It’s Abbott’s action that is immoral — and unconstitutional, not our display honoring the Bill of Rights.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation intends to take legal action to remedy the situation.
As TheBlaze previously reported, this is hardly the first time Abbott has defended the traditional Christmas nativity.
(H/T: Texas Tribune)
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