It’s No Longer Illegal to Say “Merry Christmas” in Texas.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Americans have no right to freedom from religion

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.

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4 Responses to It’s No Longer Illegal to Say “Merry Christmas” in Texas.

  1. Well now you’re just being logical. I hate Rick Perry. Hell, most of his own party hate him, yet he remains in office because OMG otherwise we’d have an evil liberal. Sigh.

    • I read an article a few weeks ago that suggested that within a generation, the demographics in Texas will change significantly enough to turn it into a battleground state. One can only hope.

  2. Angela Clevenger says:

    Yes, this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. And before those who’ve not been throughly educated, be tolerant for a moment. I would advise you to inspect the ORIGINAL text of our founding fathers as well as those that support the founding of this great country.
    My 2nd and last point- we wouldn’t have Christ-mas if it weren’t for Christianity. If “our” special day means nothing to you then stay out of the stores, don’t exchange gifts- that us rooted in the “holiday”, buy a tree yep rooted, have a feast- rooted, decorate your house with lights #rooted, see if you can work from home that day, and carry on. There are a few of us to whom Christ-mas does still hold deep meaning for the rebel who stepped through the door of heaven and changed the world. Think of the name Christ the next time you write the date. The One for whom Christ-mas is named is responsible for many of the changed values during His time that still affect ours today. This includes how women are viewed. Jesus gave them value, hence the large number of women who worked in the church. The value of children was initiated- thus orphanages. He is responsible for educational systems, hospitals, science, nursing, the list is endless…
    ‘C’ is for Christ-mas. You don’t gave to like it, you don’t have to celebrate it. But from the founding fathers who held sermons and hours of prayer in the name of Jesus Christ to those of us today can you just be Respectfully tolerant for those of us who still do?

    • Yes, this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

      If you believe this, you’re going to have to show me where the elements of the US Constitution can be found in the bible. I understand this is a bit of a tall order, considering that the first three commandments fly in the face of the First Amendment and the allowances it makes for freedom of religion, worship, speech, and expression. Commandments prohibiting people from coveting their neighbor’s wife or possessions have no secular analog, nor does the mandate to honor one’s parents. If there were, I suspect there would be far fewer of the latter in nursing homes around the country. Bearing false witness is only illegal if it’s done in a court of law or if it can be shown to have caused measurable harm to another party (libel, slander). Even then, it’s not a matter of honest, but of damage to income or reputation. Otherwise, you can say whatever you like and remain free from punishment from our government.

      The only parallels we can find – prohibitions against murder and theft – can also be found in just about every other society on the planet, and are hardly unique to Judeo-Christian morality. I’ll tell you what is, though: treating rape like a crime against property, owning slaves (at least accepting it as a way of life without comment), and killing homosexuals because of their sexuality. If anything, we should be thankful that secular moral philosophy and rational discourse have moved us past this kind of barbarism to the principles of egalitarianism, emancipation, liberty, and democracy. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, but we are, as a whole, better than we were back during the times when biblical law was created.

      As for your comments about Christmas, I’m not too sure what you’re talking about. Sure, Christmas wouldn’t be what it is today without the influence of Christianity, but I shouldn’t have to point out that the winter solstice was a “special day” for entire cultures long before followers of Jesus came along and co-opted it as a way to convert new members. The traditions of feasting, decorating trees, and putting up lights come from Germanic and Roman customs in celebration of Yule and Saturnalia. And, I defy you to show me where in the bible Jesus and his disciples went to the market and exchanged presents in honor of his birthday. Seriously. Even as a person who strongly observes the religious aspect of Christmas, you do have to acknowledge that the vast majority of its elements in today’s society are secular with no biblical origins whatsoever. To suggest that I don’t celebrate any of it because I don’t happen to believe the supernatural aspects is really ignoring the reality of what Christmas is today.

      That said, rest assured: I’m not offended if you celebrate Christmas. I don’t care if you’re Christian, either. Seriously, if you follow the advice in Matthew 6, then I don’t have a problem. My “tolerance”, however, hits its limit if you decide that everyone else should live by your religious standards, mandate that the bible be used as a basis for “science” in public schools, or do anything else that perpetuates the special (and, in many cases, unconstitutional) treatment that Christianity has been getting in American society because of its majority status.

      I suggest you read some of my other posts … not because I think you’ll be convinced of my position, but because you seem to have it in your head that I have this blanket hatred for Christians and Christianity. That might be the easy thing to do, but it’s not the intellectually honest thing.

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