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Rick Perry Signs ‘Merry Christmas’ Bill, Says ‘Religious Freedom Does Not Mean Freedom From Religion’

by David Badash on June 14, 2013

in News

Post image for Rick Perry Signs ‘Merry Christmas’ Bill, Says ‘Religious Freedom Does Not Mean Freedom From Religion’

Texas Governor Rick Perry has just signed the “Merry Christmas” bill, which protects schools from being sued for educating “students about the history of traditional winter celebrations,” and allows “students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including ‘Merry Christmas’; ‘Happy Hanukkah’; and ‘happy holidays.’”

“Surrounded by sleigh bell-ringing Santa Claus impersonators, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a law protecting Christmas and other holiday celebrations in Texas public schools from legal challenges — but also stressed that freedom of religion is not the same thing as freedom from religion,” the StarTribune reports:

It was a serious tone for an otherwise fun bill-signing and should bolster the governor’s Christian conservative credentials before he travels to Washington for the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference with the likes of tea party darlings and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and fellow Texan Ted Cruz.

Dubbed the “Merry Christmas” bill, the bipartisan measure sailed through the state House and Senate to reach Perry’s desk.

It removes legal risks of saying “Merry Christmas” in schools while also protecting traditional holiday symbols, such as a menorah or nativity scene, as long as more than one religion and a secular symbol are also reflected.

“I realize it’s only June. But it’s a good June and the holidays are coming early this year,” Perry said. “It’s a shame that a bill like this one I’m signing today is even required, but I’m glad that we’re standing up for religious freedom in this state. Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”

But in fact, religious freedom does also mean freedom from religion.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” the First Amendment reads.

And the Supreme Court would strike this down if they took the case.


In Lemon v. Kurtzman, as T. Steelman at Addicting Info writes, “SCOTUS established a 3-part test for determining if that Establishment Clause is being violated”:

1) the government action must have a secular purpose;
2) its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion;
3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.

When we use that metric to examine the new “Merry Christmas Bill,” which was just passed in Texas, I think we’ll notice something awry. The new bill goes out of its way to appear to be supportive of all faiths and includes references to “Happy Hanukkah,” menorah and “secular” scenes and/or symbols. But, as one can tell by the name and nature of the bill, the basic idea is to be able to bring Christmas celebrations into public schools.

Image by Coates Library via Twitter

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SeanLiberty13 June 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Uneducated trash. Hitler would be so proud of him. The founding fathers would be disgusted by him.

garthkitty June 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Let them leave the US. Let them go their own. Give them the boot. It is freedom to practice any religion or non at all. That is why our four fathers came to this country. To get away from England and the Church of England and Italy and Spain and their forced support of the Catholic church. He is an idiot time and time again. This will end up going to the Supreme Court.

James_M_Martin June 14, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Perry is quite wrong. The First Amendment DOES mean freedom from religion. Central to their incorrect interpretation of the amendment is the evangelicals' insistence that the Bill of Rights only protects citizens against government establishment of religion (that is, recognition of any one faith as "official") and against forbidding the practice of any one religion. The amendment also guarantees that freethinkers, non-theists, agnostics and atheists have the freedom to disbelieve. The First Amendment protects our right to be free FROM faith, free from all faiths, if we choose to not believe. It is perhaps typical of this governor that he would sign into law a bill pushing Christianity on the citizenry: he has attended prayer councils where, among other outrages, pray-away-the-gay has been prominently featured. Dogma is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

BearFlagCitizen June 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm

"… educating “students about the history of traditional winter celebrations,” and allows “students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including ‘Merry Christmas’; ‘Happy Hanukkah’; and ‘happy holidays.’”

Dear Mr. Perry: I sincerely hope this includes teacher led Pagan worship celebrations and magickal workings for the Winter Solstice and unconquerable Sun which predate the Abrahamic winter celebrations by many centuries.

Can't wait for this to happen and the Rabid Religious Right to wet themselves in a fury.

rainey13 June 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Love that, Bear Flag! I'll be waiting to see the video and photos of all the Solstice celebrations in TX schools based on this new "freedom."

Huntercgo June 16, 2013 at 6:59 am

And many of which were co-opted by the early Christian church — caroling, decorating evergreen trees, wreaths, holly, and on down the line — even the use of the world "Yule" to denote the holiday.

If he wants the real history of "traditional" celebrations (which I doubt), they really should include that.

Woodstock1947 June 15, 2013 at 7:50 am

While I have no problem with Christ mas celebrations at schools, as long as no one is forced to participate in religious practices they do not follow. it is so obvious Perry is pandering to the fundamentalist right, the only group that is forever yammering about God being taken out of the schools.
Good point ,Bear Flag, and I also wonder how far the schools will go to accomodate Muslim students who observe Ramadan, should they be so unlucky as to live in Texas.

Huntercgo June 16, 2013 at 7:01 am

I do have a problem with that, at least making it into a sectarian observance — even if participation is voluntary, those who choose not to participate are singled out as not belonging to the group, and gods help a school kid who is "different."

labman57 June 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm

People who belong to any of the myriad of religions that exist in this country should observe their tenets and practice their rituals in the comfort of their homes, their sanctuaries, and their private schools and not try to impose their particular religious values and morals onto the rest of society via political lobbying or by proselytizing religious dogma in public schools.

midwest_lawyer June 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm

He got the second part of the test wrong. It's the primary EFFECT that cannot advance or inhibit. Thus the mnemonic (when studying for the bar exam), SEX (Secular purpose, primary Effect, no eXcessive entanglement). Laws are only required to have a secular purpose. Thus, if a county passed a Blue Law closing liquor stores on Sunday, the primary purpose might be religious, but there are other secular purposes (like limiting the amount of liquor sold) and the primary effect (less liquor sold) is not the benefit or inhibition of a religion. Thus, Blue Laws are constitutional.

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