Texas Governor Rick Perry has just signed the “Merry Christmas” bill, which protects schools from being sued for educating “students about the history of traditional winter celebrations,” and allows “students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including ‘Merry Christmas’; ‘Happy Hanukkah’; and ‘happy holidays.’”
“Surrounded by sleigh bell-ringing Santa Claus impersonators, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a law protecting Christmas and other holiday celebrations in Texas public schools from legal challenges — but also stressed that freedom of religion is not the same thing as freedom from religion,” the StarTribune reports:
It was a serious tone for an otherwise fun bill-signing and should bolster the governor’s Christian conservative credentials before he travels to Washington for the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference with the likes of tea party darlings and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and fellow Texan Ted Cruz.
Dubbed the “Merry Christmas” bill, the bipartisan measure sailed through the state House and Senate to reach Perry’s desk.
It removes legal risks of saying “Merry Christmas” in schools while also protecting traditional holiday symbols, such as a menorah or nativity scene, as long as more than one religion and a secular symbol are also reflected.
“I realize it’s only June. But it’s a good June and the holidays are coming early this year,” Perry said. “It’s a shame that a bill like this one I’m signing today is even required, but I’m glad that we’re standing up for religious freedom in this state. Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”
But in fact, religious freedom does also mean freedom from religion.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” the First Amendment reads.
And the Supreme Court would strike this down if they took the case.
1) the government action must have a secular purpose;
2) its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion;
3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.
When we use that metric to examine the new “Merry Christmas Bill,” which was just passed in Texas, I think we’ll notice something awry. The new bill goes out of its way to appear to be supportive of all faiths and includes references to “Happy Hanukkah,” menorah and “secular” scenes and/or symbols. But, as one can tell by the name and nature of the bill, the basic idea is to be able to bring Christmas celebrations into public schools.
Image by Coates Library via Twitter
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