Merry Christmas Law is Gift that Keeps on Giving, Comedy-wise
Published: December 23, 2013
Other misunderstandings may abound as a result of the law, worries Cheryl Drazin, Southwest civil rights counsel with the Anti-Defamation League. While the first section deals with issues like holiday greetings and parties—already well codified within federal law—the ADL takes issue with the second part of the legislation, which dictates religious public displays for schools—a gray area open to subjective symbolism.
Allegheny vs ACLU, a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, determined which certain combinations of religious displays on public grounds are constitutional as per the establishment clause. For instance, a nativity scene on its own is not permitted, but a Menorah and a Christmas tree arrangement is allowed because both present secular meaning. However, the Texas statue allows for one religious symbol and one secular symbol, potentially muddying the waters.
“The way the law is worded, it probably creates some legal confusion for what’s permissible for schools to do regarding displays,” says Drazin. “I think it gets really scary for school districts [and] campuses to figure out what’s OK and what’s not OK.”
“At best, the state law is fuzzy; at its worst, it’s in conflict with federal law,” says Drazin, “… a school could think they were relying on the bill for good information and wind up in litigation.”
So, in effect, a law meant to protect school districts could actually end with a trail of lawsuits, making this (not creepy at all) quote from Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz seem as logical as the bill itself: “We hope the Merry Christmas law will lead to less school districts being naughty and more being nice.”
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