Atheists in Texas have spoken out against legislation that would allow teachers in the state to tell their students “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.”
“While those with the most popular majority religion in this region could use this to earn brownie points with some parents and co-workers, those in the minority position would effectively be ‘outed’ one way or another; whether they chose to participate or whether they chose not to,” Aron Ra, the Texas state director of American Atheists, wrote on his blog.
The so-called “Merry Christmas bill” was pre-filed by Texas state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R) at the end of last year. Bohac said he was inspired to draft the bill after learning his son’s school used the inclusive phrase “holiday tree” instead of “Christmas tree.”
The bill states that students and school officials have the right to use the greetings “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Holidays” on school grounds. Bohac said the legislation was intended to protect school districts from lawsuits.
“Our school officials and teachers have enough on their plate without having to worry about frivolous lawsuits for celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah,” the Texas lawmaker explained in a statement from December. “It’s my intent to offer protection for school officials and teachers by codifying Supreme Court precedent and providing ‘bright lines.’”
Ra, however, said the “Merry Christmas bill” was only intended to promote the dominant religions in the region.
“It has no secular legislative purpose,” he wrote, referring to the Supreme Court’s key Lemon v. Kurtzman ruling. “It will not only advance the already dominant religion in this country, but will also invariably inhibit less-popular faiths, and it will certainly result in ‘excessive government entanglement’ with religion.”
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