Tis the season for extending the reach of Merry Christmas legislation in two more states — Arkansas and Indiana. The state senate in Indiana passed their version of the Merry Christmas Bill earlier this week and a nearly identical measure has just been introduced in Arkansas by Representative Justin T. Harris.
Harris says the bill will “allow students and school district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding celebrations, including Merry Christmas.” The bill, HB 1272, also makes mention of other holiday greetings including “Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy Holidays.” The bill states that scenes or symbols associated with a traditional winter celebration, including a menorah or Christmas image, can be placed on school property. It also states those same scenes and symbols may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.
The bills are largely designed to prevent threats of lawsuits, which most often come from out-of-state operations of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, who claim they have received a “complaint”.
In Indiana the Senate Education Committee unanimously backed a similar measure, which would allow schools to have Nativity scenes or other Yuletide decorations, as long as another religious or secular holiday is recognized. It would also permit history lessons about winter holidays and traditional holiday greetings, including “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah.”
These two states continue a five year trend by local legislators to protect schools from lawsuits.