Texas public school teachers and students may soon be allowed to utter “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” and other holiday-tinged greetings without fear of lawsuits and other reprisals.
The so-called "Merry Christmas Bill" easily passed muster in the state's House (145-2) and Senate (29-0) and now awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s signature, reports the Dallas Observer. The law would take effect this fall.
The bill also permits school districts to “educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations” and allows holiday displays on school grounds.
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The bill also unambiguously legalizes displays of the religious imagery associated with traditional winter celebrations including nativity scenes, Christmas trees and menorahs. The caveat is that all displays must include imagery from at least two religions or some additional secular symbol. (Messages encouraging adherence to a religion are verboten, too.)
State Representative Dwayne Bohac is the prime mover behind the legislation.
“Our school officials and teachers have enough on their plate without having to worry about frivolous lawsuits for celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah,” the Houston Republican said in a press release when he introduced the bill, notes the Observer.
Bohac also started a website, Merrychristmasbill.com, to generate support for his proposed law.
“This bill originated when I picked up my first grade son from school last year and asked him how his day went,” Bohac asserts at the site. “When I asked what a holiday tree was, he told me it was the same as a Christmas tree. After inquiring with school officials as to why the term ‘Holiday Tree’ was being used, it became apparent that the school was fearful of litigation.”
As you might expect, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is against the legislation.
“We hope administrators and teachers remain mindful that it is of utmost importance that it’s parents who teach their children about matters of faith, not public schools," said ACLU spokesman Tom Hargis, according to Austin FOX affiliate KTBC, adding that the they'll closely monitor holiday activities next school year.
Aron Ra is the Texas director of American Atheists, and he ripped Bohac as the bill was being considered by Texas lawmakers, according to the Dallas Observer.
“He wants teachers to randomly be able to proselytize their religious beliefs by being able to put up religious displays in their classrooms, unrestricted, without any fear of litigation,” Ra said. “But what happens when it’s not a Christian that’s doing it? What happens when it’s a pagan trying to do solstice or Saturnalia? They’re using the same damn tree and they can cite where it came from.”
Here's a report from NewsyHub:
(H/T: The Daily Caller)