After a good amount of hoopla, Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to quietly sign legislation allowing public schools to celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays plainly and explicitly without fear of lawsuits.
The proposed law, dubbed the “Merry Christmas Bill,” sailed easily through both the Texas House and Senate and now awaits the Perry’s signature, reports the Dallas Observer. Vote tallies were 145-2 in the House and 29-0 in the Senate.
With Perry’s signature, the law will take effect beginning in fall 2013 — roughly 120 shopping days before Christmas.
The text of the bill specifically permits school districts to “educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations.” More importantly and, somehow, controversially, the bill allows “students and district staff” to declare such things such as “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” and even the soul-sucking “happy holidays.”
The bill also unambiguously legalizes displays of the religious imagery associated with traditional winter celebrations including nativity scenes, Christmas trees and menorahs. The caveat is that all displays must include imagery from at least two religions or some additional secular symbol. (Messages encouraging adherence to a religion are verboten, too.)
State Representative Dwayne Bohac is the prime mover behind the legislation.
“Our school officials and teachers have enough on their plate without having to worry about frivolous lawsuits for celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah,” the Houston Republican said in a press release when he introduced the bill, notes the Observer.
Bohac also started a website, Merrychristmasbill.com, to generate support for his proposed law.
“This bill originated when I picked up my first grade son from school last year and asked him how his day went,” Bohac asserts at the site. “When I asked what a holiday tree was, he told me it was the same as a Christmas tree. After inquiring with school officials as to why the term ‘Holiday Tree’ was being used, it became apparent that the school was fearful of litigation.”
Naturally, not everyone in the Lone Star State is enthused about the the “Merry Christmas Bill” becoming law.