As expected, Governor Rick Perry of the State of Texas, signed into law the “Merry Christmas Bill” which has received wide-spread praise and criticism in recent months. In so doing he made comments that has taken the focus from Christmas in Texas schools and instead inflames the controversies between freedom OF religion versus freedom FROM religion:
“Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion, and people of faith often feel like they can’t express that faith publicly. HB 308 works to address that by ensuring that people of all faiths are free to use traditional holiday greetings, and display religious scenes and symbols, even on school property. It ensures freedom of expression where, for many students, teachers and administrators, it’s most important.”
With that statement Governor Perry has sharply encapsulated the essence of the war on Christmas. As we have noted many times, Christmas itself has little to do with the conversation. The real controversy resides in the public declaration of religion and whether or not observances like Christmas are, in fact, government imposing religion on those who frankly don’t want it, consider it divisive, or even discriminatory.
Here is video of Perry’s comments:
Supporters of the bill point to stories we have covered in the past centered in Texas. Events in Crockett, Texas and Athens, Texas are held up as examples of why the bill is necessary. Out of state organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation have descended upon Texas communities, schools and courts to file lawsuits aimed at the celebration of Christmas in schools and on public properties. Bill sponsors believe the new law will negate expensive lawsuits coming from out of state entities.
Opposition to the bill is strong, too — even in Texas. Local prominent atheists and even the ACLU have put Texas on notice that the limits of the new law will be tested and that protests are coming.
We observe with interest how each of these outlets fail to give the full story in reporting the heightened amount of controversy surrounding Christmas in Texas. Some say the modern “war on Christmas” began more than a decade ago when parents were dismayed by schools in Texas that were not allowed to have red and green as colors at a holiday party held in a school and the court case in Plano, Texas where a school was sued for allowing a student to hand out candy canes to classmates with religious messages on them as Christmas gifts.
We encourage a thorough study of the genesis of the bill, the history of Christmas in Texas public schools and the many court cases surrounding the public display of Christmas in Texas. Then judge the media messaging — and the political posturing from the likes of Governor Perry — to fully judge what this conversation is really about.