Lawmakers Offer Reminder For Schools: You Can Legally Say ‘Merry Christmas’ In Texas
Some lawmakers at the state Capitol are taking time out of their schedules to let Texas school districts know students, teachers and school administrators are protected by the Attorney General’s Office this Christmas season.
Houston Republican, Rep. DeWayne Bohac, an author of the Texas ‘Merry Christmas’ Bill, signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Perry, reminded school administrations of the 2013 law, which allowed a school or teacher to discuss Christmas or Hanukkah in class, and educate their students about traditional celebrations without fear of reprisal. It also allowed students and staff to greet each other by saying “Merry Christmas” or the like, instead of the more generic “Happy Holidays,” and permitted the display of holiday decorations, even religious ones, as long as more than one secular or other religious icon was also displayed.
“With Christmas right around the corner, and with pageants and classroom parties, it’s important that we raise awareness for this law to avoid unnecessary censorship in our public schools,” said Bohac.
The idea — to raise awareness about the law — received support from across the aisle, in the form of Laredo Democratic Rep. Richard Raymond. Raymond and others who support the law, said the idea behind it was not to force anyone to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, but to allow teachers and students to openly celebrate the two winter religious holidays, and any other traditional ones, with the protection of the state.
The creation of the law follows two older lawsuits, one that came about after a Plano student was stopped from handing out candy canes and pencils with Christian slogans printed on them, and another in the Frisco school district, where they banned an on-campus Christmas tree last season. “What the law is saying is, that it’s okay to say Merry Christmas,” said Raymond. “I bet every one of you has heard folks start off by saying ‘Merry….’ and they then stop and say, ‘Sorry, Happy Holidays,’” he added.
The law provides teachers and school administrators with legal protection if reprimanded by district officials for celebrating the winter holidays in class. The office of Gov. Perry, at the time of his signing the bill into law in June 2013, had tweeted: “We owe it to people of all religions to protect expressions of faith.” The ACLU, at the time, had said religion should be something parents educate their children on, not teachers, and it would be “watching Texas.”