Christmas Comes Early in Texas, As Gov. Perry Signs Religious Freedom Bill

June 14, 2013 - 6:46 AM

Perry

Gov. Rick Perry signs HB 308, which allows public school students and staff to use traditional holiday greetings and display religious scenes and symbols on school property, on Thursday, June 13, 2013. (Photo from Gov. Perry's website)

(CNSNews.com) - By law, it is now okay to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" in Texas public schools.

Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 308 on Thursday, allowing public school students and staff to use traditional holiday greetings and display religious scenes and symbols on school property.

"I'm proud we are standing up for religious freedom in our state," Gov. Perry said.

"Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion, and people of faith often feel like they can't express that faith publicly. HB 308 works to address that by ensuring that people of all faiths are free to use traditional holiday greetings, and display religious scenes and symbols, even on school property. It ensures freedom of expression where, for many students, teachers and administrators, it's most important."

The bill states: "A school district may educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations, and allow students and district staff to offer  traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including: (1) "Merry Christmas"; (2) "Happy Hanukkah"; and (3) "happy holidays."

The bill specifically says that schools may display scenes or symbols associated with religious holidays -- as long as the display includes scenes or symbols of more than one religion or at least one secular scene or symbol.

Displays "may not include a  message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief," the bill says.

Supporters of the bill argue that allowing teachers to display various holiday symbols associated with certain religions makes it possible for them to educate students about the history and roots of different religions.

"I am proud to have authored the Merry Christmas Bill which allows students, parents, teachers and administrators the freedom to acknowledge traditional winter holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah in Texas public schools without fear of litigation or punishment," Rep. Dwayne Bohac, the bill's author, said.

"When I picked up my 6-year-old, first grader from school and found out school districts and teachers felt pressured by political correctness to change the way they refer to ‘Christmas trees' and Santa and holiday music, I had enough. HB 308 protects schools and teachers from ridiculous litigation and restores common sense by placing Supreme Court precedent into Texas Law."

Bill sponsor Sen. Robert Nichols said the bill will help teachers and administrators "feel safe talking about these holidays at school without fear of legal action being taken against them, and of letting our children know that it's okay to say ‘Merry Christmas.'"