State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, doesn't want Texas school teachers to resort to putting up "holiday trees" during Christmastime because they're too worried about lawsuits to call them what they really are.
“Our school officials and teachers have enough on their plate without having to worry about frivolous lawsuits for celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah," Bohac said in a news release.
Bohac on Wednesday filed a bill that he hopes will free public schools from concerns that displays of Christmas cheer could land them in a county court. The measure would specifically allow teachers and other public school staff to use holiday greetings like "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Hanukkah" and to display Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, menorahs and other cultural icons of winter celebrations. While allowing such overtly religious holiday displays, the bill also prohibits schools from using language that promotes adherence to a specific religion.
Bohac said Christmas has been an official federal holiday since 1870 and that U.S. Supreme Court decisions have made it clear that government entities can recognize the holiday for "historical and cultural purposes."
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The idea for the "Merry Christmas Bill" came from a visit Bohac said he had with his first-grade son last year around this time. He asked how his son's day had gone, and he said his class had decorated a "holiday tree" with "holiday ornaments."
"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," Bohac said. "It was that moment that inspired me to file legislation that would provide students, parents, teachers and administrators a safe harbor for openly celebrating a Federal holiday.”
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