Five stories that have North Texas talking: a nativity debate in Orange; Allen ISD gets money for its stadium woes; Texas A&M scales back its Israel campus plans; and more.
Gov. Greg Abbott wants the city of Orange to restore a nativity scene after city officials decided to take it down. “I strongly encourage the City of Orange to stand up to the demands of a select few who wish to see God thrown out of the public square, embrace the season of Christmas and restore the Nativity Scene immediately,” Abbott said in a statement. This all comes after an atheist group requested a “Happy Holidays” banner be placed next to the nativity scene: "Whether you are celebrating Saturnalia, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, the Winter Solstice, or any other holiday this time of year, The Orange County Atheists would like to wish you... Happy Holidays!" A spokesperson for the atheist group told the Beaumont Enterprise that his group never threatened legal action and didn’t care that the nativity scene was there – it just wanted a banner next to the display. The Orange city manager’s office says it denied the banner request and that the nativity scene would be taken down by Wednesday to “avoid legal costs,” the Enterprise reports. Abbott says the Constitution “commands accommodation of religion rather than hostility towards it.”
- Allen ISD is getting a settlement regarding the construction problems at Eagle Stadium. The Dallas Morning News reports: “Allen ISD is leaving its stadium woes behind by approving a $1.7 million settlement with the companies that designed and built the flawed venue. Well, almost. Engineers have told the district that grout used at the base of some handrails when the stadium was originally built has caused corrosion of the handrails. General contractor Pogue Construction, architectural firm PBK or both will pay for the grout and handrail repairs by May 2016, according to an agreement approved by the school board on Monday.” [The Dallas Morning News]
- A dozen smuggled immigrants have been detained after being crammed into a fake Border Patrol SUV that was stopped by a real officer in Texas. Border Patrol officials say they're investigating who made a white Chevy Tahoe look like a Border Patrol vehicle. A Border Patrol agent from the Laredo sector last Thursday afternoon noticed something wasn't quite right about what appeared to be a government SUV. The SUV had the words "Border Patrol" and "U.S. Customs and Border Protection" on the sides, an official-looking insignia and a green stripe. The agent followed the vehicle north on Interstate 35 before stopping the truck, finding 12 passengers inside. A Border Patrol statement says the driver was also arrested in the human smuggling investigation. [Associated Press]
- Texas A&M is scaling back its plans in Israel. The Texas Tribune reports: “Two years after announcing ambitious plans to open a branch campus in Israel, Texas A&M University is scaling back. The university now plans to open a $5.5 million ocean research observatory in the country, but is scrapping plans for a major ‘Peace Campus’ in Nazareth that would have offered undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in a wide range of fields. A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said Monday that the university trimmed down the initiative because of concerns that A&M wouldn't have the freedom it needed to operate a full campus.
- Meet folks trying to keep their financial footing during the most trying time of the year. During the holiday season, fiscal balance can seem next to impossible. Gifts, decorations, parties, travel, kids off from school — the challenges mount almost as quickly as the bills. In KERA’s ongoing One Crisis Away At The Holiday series, explore stories of North Texans who are making tough decisions at the cash register this month – and learn tips on how to spend smarter during the holidays.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.