The Alabama Legislature is getting close to enacting a law to allow public schools to educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations and allow student and staff to exchange seasonal greetings.
The bill by Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa won approval in the Senate last month and cleared the House Education Policy Committee on Wednesday. It now goes to the House for a final vote.
Like other states passing similar bills Alabama is reportedly supporting the idea to protect public schools from frivolous lawsuits filed by out-of-state entities, usually the Freedom from Religion Foundation. In recent years the FFRF has successfully shut down school celebrations of Christmas by sending letters threatening to take districts to court over the mere mention of Christmas.
Also like other states, resistance is found along party lines. Republicans generally favor the legislation while Democrats generally see passage of such bills as unnecessary. This is the case in Alabama as well.
Democratic Rep. Marcel Black of Tuscumbia voted against the bill and said teachers and students can already do what the bill says. Allen says there is confusion among school officials, and he’s trying to clarify what’s permissible.Read More
The state legislature in Oklahoma passed that state’s version of the Merry Christmas Bill allowing Christmas in public schools by a vote of 73-10. The measure now heads to a vote in the state senate.
If voting in neighboring states is any indication the chances of Oklahoma passing the bill are pretty good. If it does pass it goes into effect on September 1st, just in time for the 2014 holiday season.
If there will be court challenges to the law expect them in Oklahoma. The state has been a hotbed of Christian controversy since the state erected a monument to the Ten Commandments on capitol grounds claiming the Christian-based laws were a fundamental part of Oklahoma’s founding history. Since that time Oklahoma has endured lawsuits and proposals to remove the monument, even receiving an absurd offer from a Satanic society out of New York to put up a shrine to Satan to counter the monument.
The Merry Christmas Bill is designed to help public schools avoid costly lawsuits from out of state interests who bring their anti-religion agenda to bear by attacking the mention or acknowledgement of Christmas in public institutions. Schools are a favorite target of the anti-religious forces of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who most often bankrolls the anti-Christmas efforts.
Oklahoma’s bill says public schools can display scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations on school property providing they include more than one religion or one religion and at least one secular symbol.
Republican Rep. Bobby Cleveland of Norman authored the bill and says the legislation will protect Oklahoma schools from lawsuits over religious-based holiday displays.
Opponents say such displays are already allowed. A proposal to include Kwanzaa, a celebration that honors African heritage, was tabled.Read More
The now famous Hyatt Extreme Christmas display is being taken to court. The City of Plantation, Florida is suing the Hyatts, calling their display a public nuisance. The family Christmas display held each year on their home property has gained fame for its holiday spirit, traffic and crowds during the season and for the ongoing feud with city officials the rest of the year.
It appears the city of Plantation has had enough and is taking the gloves off.
The city filed a complaint in Broward Circuit Court seeking an injunction to the “nuisance” display. The complaint, filed late Friday, called the Hyatt house in Plantation Acres a “holiday spectacle” with its “larger than life commercial size display” that takes three months to assemble. The city also said the display has a “negative impact” on the community.
“The display is incompatible and inappropriate for a residential neighborhood,” said Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic. “The city considers the display to be a nuisance which must be abated to a nature and size compatible with the Hyatts’ residential neighborhood.”
Mark Hyatt emailed council members last week stating he was “disappointed” they would pursue court action.
“This is a Plantation tradition has done nothing but bring a positive light on our city,” he wrote. “There has never been a safety problem, only the one created by the mismanagement of last year on the city and police department part.”
The Hyatts have been in the news constantly over this issue. The city mayor famously dubbed the conflict a local version of “Hatfields and McCoys” last year. Neighbors have testified against the Hyatts for years begging for relief from the chaos the display generates in the neighborhood.
In emails sent to DefendChristmas.com over the course of the past three months people claiming to be neighbors have insisted they are not anti-Christmas.
“We love Christmas just as much as the next guy,” a neighbor told us. “But Christmas is also peace and we want to enjoy that, too. They like the attention. They like the crowds. They like the media fawning over them. And that’s fine if they were located somewhere else. But they are here, in our yards, blocking our driveways and disturbing our peace. The city has to do something because the Hyatts don’t have the decency to be good neighbors.”
The Hyatts did scale back the hours of their display and removed a moving spotlight. The city tried to convince the Hyatts to hire off-duty detail to control the crowds, but they declined. So the city placed “no parking” signs on the major street near their home; people ignored the signs, even parked under them, and then scurried to their cars when police showed.
In December, the frustrated police chief paid three officers overtime to shut down the street to keep people from wandering in traffic to get to the Hyatts. People parked at a nearby church and made the eight-minute walk. Police Chief Howard Harrison said the city spent $5,000 for police overtime plus another $300 for crews to pick up trash afterward.
Hyatt’s attorney, Richard Skeen of Hollywood, did not return a message left with his secretary.
City officials said going to court was last resort, but felt compelled to take action, especially since Hyatt posted on his Facebook page in January that “we are busy planning even more fun things this year for Hyatt Extreme Christmas!”Read More
Tennessee is one step closer to passing their own Merry Christmas Bill. On Monday, February 24 2014, the Tennessee State Senate unanimously passed a measure similar to other states that allows for the recognition of Christmas in public schools without fear of lawsuit. We assume the measure must now go before the House in Tennessee. This bill has been in the works since last summer.
Under the measure Christmas can be taught in the classroom as long as more than one religious viewpoint is offered and that secular symbols are included. Teachers and students would be allowed to say “Merry Christmas” without fear of charges of discrimination or of lawsuit.
Modeled after the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill” of Texas, famously passed nearly a year ago, Tennessee joins several other state in seeking protection for Christmas in public schools.Read More
An Oklahoma House panel has signed off on proposed legislation allowing for acknowledging Christmas in Oklahoma public schools.
The House Common Education Committee Monday approved legislation authorizing public school students and school employees to greet each other with phrases used during traditional winter celebrations such as merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and happy holidays.
The so-called Merry Christmas Bill authorizes Oklahoma school districts to teach students about the history of the traditional celebrations. It also allows a school district erect to displays on school property associated with the winter celebrations, including a menorah or a Christmas image like a nativity scene or Christmas tree, under certain circumstances.
Announced last fall, the Oklahoma bill is patterned after a Texas measure known as the Merry Christmas Bill that was signed into law late last year. Several other neighboring states are considering similar measures as schools nationwide continue to battle the threat of lawsuits by church-vs-state separatists.
The measure’s author, Republican Rep. Ken Walker, of Tulsa, says the measure will protect Oklahoma school districts from lawsuits over winter displays.Read More