Christmas and Hanukkah should be celebrated freely at public schools in Louisiana without fear of punishment, according to a state lawmaker from Shreveport, who plans to file legislation to ensure citizens understand their rights during the winter holidays.
State Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Republican, said Thursday he will file a so-called “Merry Christmas” bill during the 2014 legislative session.
The bill closely mirrors legislation passed into law in Texas this year, which allowed public school staff and students to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah — by wearing festive garb, verbalizing greetings and holding events — “as long as more than one religion is represented and a secular symbol such as a reindeer or snowman is displayed.”
The Texas law also allows school districts to “educate students about the history of traditional winter.”
“There is a lot of misperception about what the First Amendment actually allows,” said Seabaugh. “Anti-Christian groups, like the (American Civil Liberties Union), want everyone to believe that traditional Christian symbols like nativity scenes and saying ‘Merry Christmas’ are never allowed. That is absolutely not the case.”
He added the legislation would not actually change the law in any real way, since these kinds of celebrations and displays are already allowed, but would instead put the Supreme Court ruling “in state law so there an be a level of comfort within Louisiana public systems” and “to let them know that what they’re trying to do is okay.”
In response, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman said her group has long been at the forefront of the fight to protect free speech, which includes “protecting Americans from government-imposed religion, because the practice of religion belongs in our houses of worship and our homes.”
The Texas law only applies to “winter holidays” and specifically mentions only Christmas and Hanukkah.