I don’t know about you, but I smell lions!
Texas governor Rick “Oops” Perry signed bill HB308 – the “Merry Christmas Bill” – into law yesterday, ensuring, as Politico put it, that it’s now even more legal to say things like “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” in Texas public schools.
Before it was just everyday, run of the mill legal.
Nothing like some good old fashioned fear mongering by passing a law to protect something you were able to do in the first place. But then, pretending that you’re under attack by forces bent on your destruction is a big thing with some Christians … especially those in the Bible Belt. I guess they’re hoping no one notices that they run the damned place and are at as much of a risk of “persecution” as they are of having the entire state go vegan and ban barbecue. Anyway the remainder of the bill talks about the types of displays allowable during particular times of the year:
“Sec. 29.920. WINTER CELEBRATIONS.
(a) 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.”
Again, the greetings are legal to start with. The only people I’ve seen get their panties in a twist have been conservative religious “Family” groups who hear someone in a department store say “Happy Holidays” and they suddenly get a case of the vapors.
I hope this bit on “traditional winter celebrations” includes all of the original pagan solstice celebrations of Saturnalia and Yule … and accurate information on how Christianity came along, decided they’d get the most converts by co-opting whatever cultural celebrations were already established to begin with, and just re-named everything in sight.
Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, and Happy Halloween. You’re all Christian now. Praise the Lord.
I wonder if they’re going to set aside some time talk about Kwanzaa?
(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), a school district may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of: (1) more than one religion; or (2) one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.
(c) A display relating to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.”
Alright, a couple of things:
First, displays don’t have to contain messages to encourage adherence; their mere existence can potentially be enough to suggest a relationship between a particular religion and the state by way of the public school. It depends on how displays of other religions are treated, and whether they get the same “airtime” as it were.
Now, I could possibly see something like this working out, assuming cooler heads prevail. During the Holidays, the schools could have a menorah for Hanukkah, candles for Kwanzaa, a nativity scene for Christmas, and a big-assed Christmas tree with an inflatable Santa. I remember seeing things like this – minus the Kwanzaa candles – when I was growing up. We had a menorah and a Christmas tree, and sang songs like “Silent Night” and “O Hanukkah” in our school choir. Provided no religion gets shut out, then this could potentially work.
It’s in Texas, though, so I am not entirely convinced this will be done with the sense of fairness we all hope for … but I’ll be glad to eat my words and see it all work out.
However … and this is my final point … why wade into the religion mess to begin with? Is it worth all of the heartburn to secure the right to put up a stupid nativity scene and keep a symbol of Christianity in public schools? This entire situation would go away if they just put up a Christmas tree and be done with it. It’s purely secular. It makes no comment about belief whatsoever. People through the entire spectrum of belief – from devout conservative Christians to godless heathens like myself – will have these trees in their houses and exchange presents. It’s perfect: it’s big, garish, bright, cheerful, and is something we as Americans can pretty much all gather around without being at each others’ throats.
Unfortunately, we can’t have that because it would somehow be infringing on people’s First Amendment rights:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said Thursday that freedom from religion was not included in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m proud we are standing up for religious freedom in our state,” Perry said. “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”
Actually, it kinda does. Freedom of religion means that you are allowed to bow your head and pray to whatever god you choose without the government jailing you for it. Freedom from religion means that the government has no right to force you to bow to their god or treat you like a second class citizen for worshiping yours. (That second part my sound familiar to many non-believers in some parts of the country.)
As I mentioned with that jackass valedictorian who started rattling off the Lord’s Prayer during his graduation speech, both freedom of and from religion protect everyone, from atheists to the conservative, evangelical Christians. The only reason why the latter can’t see this is because theirs happens to be the de facto religion of the United States.
In the end, I think the only solution to problems of this kind is not to make it a free-for-all, turning every public building into a battleground for some kind of ideological upper hand. The state should have no comment on religion, one way or the other.