'Merry Christmas Bill' Aims To Put Christmas Back Into Schools
by: Florian Martin, December 10, 2013 11:12:00 am
It’s a familiar theme for Comedians each year around this time.
“Petty arguments about a holiday celebrating the birth of our Savior is as American as apple pie. It’s called the ‘War on Christmas,’ and it happens every year.”
That’s Jon Stewart poking fun of the annual coverage of the so-called “War on Christmas” on Fox News, where pundits usually decry the change from the word “Christmas” to “holidays” in a public setting.
One soldier in this “war” is Houston state Rep. Dwayne Bohac.
This summer, the Texas legislature passed his “Merry Christmas Bill,” which explicitly allows school districts to use the term “Merry Christmas” along with “Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy Holidays.”
Here’s Bohac at a news conference on Monday.
“That allows parents, teachers, students and school administrators to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah in public schools without fear of censorship, litigation or persecution. The bill, simply put, provides much needed guidance.”
He says he decided to introduce the bill when his son told him about decorating the “holiday tree” at school.
“I said it’s not a holiday tree, because it’s not celebrating some holiday like Easter or a holiday like July 4th or Halloween. It’s not a ‘holiday tree,’ it’s a Christmas tree.”
He says the bill was meant to clarify federal law as established by the Supreme Court to eliminate any confusion about what teachers and school district administrators are allowed to say or display.
The bill was passed with the help of both Republicans and Democrats. But not everyone is in favor of the new law.
“I think that it probably misleads students.”
That’s Matt Simpson with the ACLU of Texas. The organization has an issue with the second part of the bill, which establishes that schools may display a Christmas symbol as long as it also displays either a secular image or a symbol of another religion.
Simpson says the law could mislead school administrators into thinking they could for example display a huge Christmas tree but only a small menorah in a corner.
“Actually it’s a very difficult task to try to legislate displays in that really specific manner like you can and cannot have these displays or those displays. The constitutional principle takes into consideration a lot more factors than that.”
He says the ACLU will monitor how the new law plays out in schools and work with legislators to come up with a different version of the bill for the next legislative session.