The State of Alabama is taking their focus on Christmas out of the schools and placing it squarely on public spaces: a new bill has already passed the state senate and is now up for debate in the state legislature that would allow Christmas trees, nativity scenes and other images and icons of the holiday season on public property. The is bill authored by state Senator Phil Williams.
Williams’ bill cites Lynch v. Donnelly where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that a nativity scene in a shopping district didn’t promote or endorse Christianity because it included secular symbols of Christmas including Santa Claus and reindeer.
Therefore, the display didn’t violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
“Right now, it is the law of the land, and I believe it should be the law of the state,” Williams, R-Rainbow City, said.
Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, initially expressed concerns about the bill saying it won’t stop groups from filing lawsuits.
Williams’ legislation was inspired, in part, by the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s challenge of Rainbow City placing a nativity scene on government property last year.
In it important to note that this effort is completely different from other states who have in recent years passed what is called the “Merry Christmas Bill”, which protects schools from lawsuits. This bill extends those rights to public properties and hopes are to end the threat of lawsuits against government agencies that allow Christmas decorations in public spaces such as lawns and lobbies.