Texas legislators appear to have too much time on their hands. Members of the House of Representatives just passed legislation protecting everyone’s right to say “Merry Christmas.”
That’s right. It’s mid-May, and some Lone Star lawmakers are worried about Christmas and how it might be acknowledged in public schools. They’re so worried, in fact, that they’ve passed a bill guaranteeing the right to say “Merry Christmas” and display certain holiday symbols in schools.
According to the Associated Press, Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) says the bill seeks to protect schools from “ridiculous” lawsuits. He asserted that, “Teachers are fearful of calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree.”
Bohac pre-filed the legislation last December. At that time, he asserted in a press release, “This bill originated when I picked up my first grade son from school last year and asked him how his day went. He told me that his class had decorated their holiday tree with holiday ornaments. When I asked what a holiday tree was, he told me it was the same as a Christmas tree. After inquiring with school officials as to why the term ‘Holiday Tree’ was being used, it became apparent that the school was fearful of litigation.”
Horrors! The poor kid actually had to hear the phrase “holiday tree”? I’ll bet his entire Christmas was ruined. But then again, I’ll bet he was hearing the term “Christmas” used at home and at church plenty of times.
Here’s the thing: Despite the claims of Rep. Bohac, the Christmas-obsessed gang at the Fox News Channel and the Religious Right’s teeming masses, I’m unaware of any lawsuit that has actually been filed anywhere over a public school’s use of the term “Christmas.”
Nor am I aware of any attempt to sue public schools for using religious symbols in class in a manner that furthers legitimate educational goals.
It is true that some public school officials, aware that children and families come from a variety of religious and philosophical traditions, are using more neutral language these days. It’s also true that some schools have been sued (or warned by groups like Americans United) if they use the December holidays as an excuse to lapse into devotional activities.
But by and large, many of the stories I’ve heard about the “war on Christmas” over the years tend to be greatly embellished or sometimes wholly false. In one case from 2006, a Wisconsin public school district demanded that Liberty Counsel correct its false claims about a Christmas play and reimburse the district for the time and money spent responding to the phony allegations. To no one’s surprise, Liberty Counsel never set the record straight and didn’t send a check.
So much of this is just shameless posturing. It’s an attempt to drum up yet another tiresome “culture war” for the legions of the Religious Right. It’s also an obnoxious effort by what I call the “Christmas Police” to force all of us to celebrate the December holidays in the proper, religiously correct way.
I hate to upset anyone’s wassail bowl, but this is America, and if some people want to celebrate Christmas in a secular manner or use neutral terms they have that right. In addition, government needs to respect all of our rights and remember that not everyone wants to take part in the religious aspects of certain holidays.
I’d also suggest that the legislators of Texas go home if they have nothing better to do than pass laws like this. (Although, from what I’ve been reading lately, they should have enough real work to tend to. Didn’t I read something about a fertilizer factory blowing up recently?)
Finally, to Rep. Bohac: Merry Christmas!
Are you happy now?