Texas Governor Rick Perry hit the nail on the head when he said on Thursday, “You know, it’s a shame that a bill like this one I am signing today is even required, but I’m proud that we are standing up for religious freedom in this state.” Governor Perry said that to announce the signing of the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill” that permits students and school officials to use religious greetings, such as “Merry Christmas,” and to display religious holiday symbols from different faiths on school grounds.
During the speech, the governor referenced the Kountze High School cheerleaders that were in attendance. School district guidelines stopped the cheerleaders from displaying banners with any religious message in them under the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment that prohibits government segments (i.e. a school district) from endorsing a religion after complaints by advocacy group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
In May, Senate District Judge Steve Thomas ruled that the cheerleaders of the southeast Texas school can display the banners. Governor Perry was a supporter of the cheerleader’s rights. That litigation is not over, however, as what many are calling a lack of clarity in Judge Thomas’ ruling could leave the school district vulnerable for potential future lawsuits. The school has filed an appeal. With the new bill, it will be interesting to see how this scenario plays out.
In his speech on Thursday, the Governor said, “religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”
Houston Representative Dwayne Bohac, the author of the bill, explained how his son, Reagan (who introduced Gov. Perry for the speech) was the inspiration for the bill because he said at school he decorates the “holiday tree with holiday ornaments,” but at their home it’s a “Christmas tree.” During a discussion with the school about the terminology, Rep. Bohac was told that the school did not use religious terms because of fears of litigation.
As such, Bohac set out to change it and hopes that the Texas bill will become a model for other states to follow. The Representative said that political correctness has run amuck and caused our brains to have completely fallen out. “This bill seeks to restore some sanity to our civil discourse,” he added.
Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), the Senate-side sponsor of the bill, said that the signing of the bill will keep schools, teachers and administrators from having to worry about “frivolous” lawsuits.