It’s that time of year again when seemingly rational people go stupid over the issue of Christmas, despite being largely secularized, being a Christian holiday at heart.
This time it’s not an outside entity coming in and complaining, but the Killeen Independent School District acting preemptively against a hand drawn poster of Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas that includes a Bible verse from the second chapter of Luke that the boy recites in the movie.
Let me reiterate. No one complained about the poster prior to the school principal asking the nurse’s aide, Dedra Shannon, to take it down.
Texas Values, a non-profit law firm that takes on such cases involving defending “Judeo-Christian values,” has gotten involved as well as the state Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who said in a letter to the Killeen ISD that the removal of the poster was “an attack on religious liberty.”
Paxton also referenced the state’s Merry Christmas Law, which both parties disagree on the interpretation of. As The Washington Post explains,
Passed in 2013, the Merry Christmas Law was intended to protect Texans’ “right to acknowledge traditional winter holidays like Christmas on school grounds” as long as they also acknowledge holidays of other religions and secular symbols without fear of litigation, according to a website about the law.
The school district argued that Shannon’s homemade Linus poster, with its biblical quote, violated the Merry Christmas Law by promoting Christianity without also acknowledging other secular symbols, such as a snowman, or other winter religious traditions, such as Hanukkah — a requirement of the statute. It also mandates that a school display cannot include “a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.”
“Our employees are free to celebrate the Christmas and holiday season in the manner of their choosing,” the district said Friday in a statement obtained by TV station KWTX-10. “However, employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students.”
The attorney general countered that argument in his letter to the school board, arguing that the Merry Christmas Law “encourages school districts to take a more inclusive approach to religious and secular celebrations” and “explicitly grants school districts the option of educating its students about traditional winter holidays, the meaning of these holidays, and how they are referenced in history and pop culture, which ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ certainly satisfies.”
Paxton asked the school district to rescind the “unlawful policy,” apologize to Shannon and “move back into compliance with state and federal law.”
The school board met on Tuesday night, drawing a large crowd as the public was aware the issue would be discussed. While the president of the school board, Terry Delano, believed that the poster should be allowed, he was the lone vote as the school board decided 6 to 1 to remove the poster.
It really is sad that it’s come to this. That a message about the origins and true meaning of Christmas, with nary a cross or manger scene in sight, is being removed where there was no complaint.
When we start changing our behavior and speech because we live in fear of being slapped with a lawsuit, how can we claim to be a country that allows the free exercise of religion and expression? President Delano has a right to worry as he does, “The poster did not coerce anyone to be a Christian, in my opinion,” Delano said. “If this continues to be the trend, there will come a day where we can’t say ‘Christ-mas.’ ”
If these kinds of actions are what we can expect, then there’s really no way to avoid such a thing in the end.
And so the War on Christmas wages on.