How is this new 'Merry Christmas' bill impacting ETX schools?
Texas representative discusses impact of bill.
LINDALE, TX (KLTV) -
House Bill 308, dubbed the "Merry Christmas" bill is designed to protect school districts from lawsuits when they celebrate religious holidays.
Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law back earlier this year and some East Texas school districts said it has not changed a whole lot, but has eased the minds of employees.
"The Christmas tree is a big deal, so in the past teachers have been hesitant to display maybe Christmas trees because it's related to Christianity, so this law has freed that up, freed that worry," said Stan Surratt, Lindale ISD Superintendent.
The "Merry Christmas" bill allows school districts to educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations and allows for the display of a nativity scene, Christmas tree, menorah or any other traditional symbol as long as more than one religion is displayed, or accompanied by a secular one. The bill states that school districts may not have a display that encourages one particular religious belief, which Lindale ISD school district respects.
"School districts want to be compassionate and understanding to all families and all people from different backgrounds and different beliefs," Surratt said.
Longview ISD said they have always had displays and allowed staff and students to say 'Merry Christmas' 'Happy holidays' or 'Happy Hanukkah' because they believe it is protected under their first amendment rights.
"In this country we have the first amendment that says we are not going to establish a religion but it doesn't say that religion can't influence what happens in school," said Matt Schaefer, Texas State Representative of District 6.
"We have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion," Schaefer said.
Schaefer said this bill just provides extra legal protection for school districts.
"By allowing 'Merry Christmas' to be said in the public schools, you're not belittling any other religion, you're simply acknowledging a historical event that is not only celebrated throughout our culture, but throughout cultures all over the world," he said.
Lawmakers in Oklahoma have also expressed support for the "Oklahoma Merry Christmas" bill that was filed Monday.