Louisiana Christmas Bill Faces Easy Passage

Louisiana Christmas Bill Faces Easy Passage

Louisiana’s version of the Merry Christmas Bill has cleared the state senate and appears headed for easy passage in the house. Public schools will be able to display Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and secular decorations, and students and faculty can freely exchange such greetings if House Bill 876 becomes law.

Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, had little trouble getting what he termed “a simple bill” through the House Education Committee.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” he said. “People don’t know what they can do or say. I engage in that type of litigation, so I get calls from schools asking what they can do.”

Seabaugh said he’d like to take credit for the proposed law, but he borrowed it from Texas, which already has what’s known as the “Merry Christmas Law.”

It’s a compilation of U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the matter.

“I would have liked to go farther,” he said, but he decided to keep it precise.

“It’s OK to have a Christmas tree and a Christmas pageant,” he said. “You don’t have to say ‘Happy Holidays.’”

The original bill spelled out that it “authorizes a school board to educate students about the history of traditional celebrations in winter and to allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays.”

Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, asked, “Would you have a problem including Kwanzaa in there?”

“Is that a winter celebration?” Seabaugh asked. “Is it a traditional historical one?”

“For African-Americans it is,” Smith answered.

“I think I would (have a problem) because I don’t think it’s historical,” Seabaugh said.

After Smith lectured him on the traditions of Kwanzaa, he agreed that it should be included, so the committee approved Smith’s amendment adding “Happy Kwanzaa” to the list of acceptable greetings.

The bill also authorizes a school board to display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional celebrations in winter, including a menorah or a Christmas image, such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of more than one religion or a display featuring one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.

It prohibits a display relating to a traditional celebration from including a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.

“They can’t get in trouble for educating people about traditional holidays,” Seabaugh said.

Putting the information into state law “let’s everybody know they can say ‘Merry Christmas’ and put up a Christmas tree, and they don’t have to call it a holiday tree.”

The bill now goes to the House for debate.

Local media has lined up behind the bill and most resistance to it appears to be coming from out of state sources.

Georgia VA Hospital Apologizes for Banning Christmas Carolers

Georgia VA Hospital Apologizes for Banning Christmas Carolers

In a sudden turn of events the Augusta, Georgia VA Hospital administration that has turned away a local school singing group from performing religious Christmas carols at the facility last December has apologized for their actions and has invited the group to return this Christmas without any of their music censored.

The report comes as a surprise because most recent reports indicated the VA Hospital was not looking to change their policy but were interested in a compromise.

Alleluia Community School administrators said Tuesday that VA Director Bob Hamilton apologized for his staff’s restricting student carolers to the hospital’s chapel last December and forcing them to sing from a pre-approved list of 12 nonreligious Christmas songs that the facility’s Pastoral Service “deemed appropriate for celebration within the hearing range of all veterans.”

Alleluia leaders said in a statement to The Augusta Chronicle that Hamilton assured them their students “are welcome to sing their own repertoire of songs and carols, including those with religious content, without discrimination at locations appropriate for singing within the VA.”

The “amicable agreement” brings a peaceful ending to an incident that drew more than four months of national criticism from veterans and residents, members of the Alleluia Community, First Amendment law firms, congressional leaders and representatives of The American Legion.

Bob Garrett, Alleluia Community School’s overall coordinator and administrative team chairman, said that the private south Augusta Christian school accepts Hamilton’s apology, appreciates his candor and good will in handling this matter, and is overjoyed a resolution could be reached.

“We did not want to take them to court, but we would have. We were prepared for that event,” Garrett said. “It means a lot to us to be able to serve veterans and to try to make a difference in encouraging them with our music and presence.”

In its statement, the school thanked hospital leaders for clarifying questions that arose from the Dec. 20 incident, in which Alleluia students left the hospital without singing carols because of the Augusta VA’s taking a stricter stance on a 5-year-old policy it had against imposing religion on patients.

Though students had sung at the hospital without incident in previous years, Hamilton said during a March 5 meeting with school administrators that VA policies “uphold the right to free exercise of religion by all medical, domiciliary and nursing home patients,” which he said includes providing or facilitating appropriate worship opportunities.

Hamilton told the school that the hospital did not and does not have policies that allow “viewpoint discrimination” or prevent groups from singing Christmas carols.

He added that compiling such a list of approved Christmas songs “did not represent the (medical center’s) position” and acknowledged that the hospital is awaiting additional guidance or policy clarification from national VA leadership following the completion of reviews of governing policy on such matters.

The apology was well-received by the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

“We are pleased to hear that Augusta VA Medical Center officials have acknowledged their mistake in curtailing the celebration of Christmas in 2013 and pledged not to repeat it in 2014 and beyond,” said Rep. Jeff Miller. “We will be watching closely to ensure VA facilities across the country don’t allow political correctness to unjustly interfere with activities honoring Christmas or any other federal holidays in the future.”

The Augusta VA said in a statement that Hamilton was grateful for the opportunity to correct any misunderstanding.

    Muslims Told to Stop Saying Merry Christmas

    Muslims Told to Stop Saying Merry Christmas

    Muslims must refrain from celebrating New Year and stop saying “Merry Christmas”, a speaker at a University Teknologi Mara (UiTM) event said today.

    “We shouldn’t wish Merry Christmas because it means that Jesus is reborn,” Irena Handano, manager of the Chinese Muslim Association of Indonesia or Pusat PITI said.

    Uttering the greeting means one has acknowledged and agreed with it, she added.

    She also questioned the practice of celebrating the new year on January 1 when Muslims have their own calendar, Hijriyah or Qomariyah.

    Muslim New Year is on 1 Muharram, she added.

    The Muslim convert also said Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Easter and Halloween are all part of Christian culture used to attack Islam by appearing to be “fun”.

    “So it is important to arm yourselves with knowledge to protect yourselves from the Jewish or Christian influence,” she said.

    There is already a long list of fatwas issued by each state’s religious bodies on the dos and don’ts for Muslims, including the ban on the poco-poco dance by the Perak Mufti and the ban on saying “Rest in peace”, by the National Fatwa Council.

    Cosmos Takes on Christmas

    Cosmos Takes on Christmas

    Carl Sagan launched a 13-part television series in 1980 called Cosmos, a show that explores the universe and Earth’s place in it.

    That series has been modernized and revived on Fox Television to both rave reviews and Christian criticism. Since the first episode online debate has raged between creationists and scientists about a variety of religiously-themed concepts. But recently the show decided to launch a shot at their Christian critics by taking on the celebration of Christmas.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson, in episode #7 of the new series, says that almost all Christian holidays are stolen from pagan or other holidays from the past, and they directly focus on Christmas, one of the most sacred of Christian holidays.

    Why would Tyson attack Christmas on a show about science?

    He was trying to point out that creationists are blind to the true age of the earth when they lean solely on the Bible as their source material. By pointing out the absurdity of so-called sacred observances of Christmas and that it has no Biblical standing Tyson was implying that Christians have a problem with their own history, let alone the history of the universe.

    What Tyson fails in his logic is that he doesn’t know much about Christian doctrine — or history.

    As we have pointed out many times before, Christian celebration of the birth of Christ is about far more than the outward symbols that mark it. Everything from Christmas trees to Santa Claus may indeed have pagan parallels because pagan beliefs were based on…early Christianity.

    It is typical of historians and the science community in particular to think that Christian history begins in Bethlehem.

    Christ was anticipated and Christmas was celebrated centuries before the birth of Christ.

    “Christmas”, or the observance of Christ coming into the world, predates everything thought of or associated with the modern Christmas.

    Well, almost everything.

    Consider the words of Isaiah, written some 500 years before Christ: “For unto us a Child is born, for unto us a Son is given…”

    Sound familiar?

    Those words, so common during the Christian celebrations of what is called Christmas and Easter, tell a far longer story than is acknowledged by science and history. They are just a sampling of ancient “Christian” thought relative to the coming of Christ into the world, an event that was anticipated and celebrated.

    Yes, pagans had things such as evergreens and other iconic elements we now associate with the modern celebration of Christmas. But where did they get those beliefs?

    Cosmos may or may not be a great show. The fact that it stirs up conversation and debate amongst the science-minded and the religious-minded is a good thing.

    But let’s stick to the facts — and not spread the bogus, lazy history of common Christmas past.

    Just as the cosmos is a tale as old as time, so too is the story of Christ.