Texas Politician Proposes Bill to Protect Teachers Who Say ‘Merry Christmas’

Dwayne Bohac is a Republican state legislator from Texas… so you *know* he’s full of great ideas.

Vote for me: I’m about to save Christmas

His most recent idea? Filing a bill that would allow public school teachers to say “Merry Christmas” without punishment. Because, apparently, they sue you in Texas if you do that…

You would also be legally allowed to say “Happy Hannukah” or “Happy Holidays.”

Saying “Happy Solstice,” of course, still lands you in the electric chair.

Our school officials and teachers have enough on their plate without having to worry about frivolous lawsuits for celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. It’s my intent to offer protection for school officials and teachers by codifying Supreme Court precedent and providing ‘bright lines.”

Bohac’s bill also allows for holiday displays featuring more than one religion, or a religious display next to a secular symbol. (That said, I’m guessing there’s going to be pushback the moment a Muslim teacher requests a display for anything)

It’s an unnecessary bill since no law prohibits teachers from saying things like “Merry Christmas.” If anyone thinks otherwise, that’s a problem with their own education, not in the law.

But this bill opens the door for all sorts of abuse.

Consider a school that puts up a huge Nativity Scene… with a tiny Santa somewhere nearby. It would be endorsing Christianity but following Bohac’s law.

Or a school could also theoretically put up a Nativity scene and a Menorah and call it a day — if an atheist wanted to put up a “Celebrate the Solstice” sign alongside the others, the school wouldn’t have to comply since they already have two different religious displays up.

If you live in Texas, please contact your representatives and urge them to vote against H.B. No. 308. Christians don’t need any more gifts this winter.

(Thanks to Richard for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Isilzha

    What if I say Happy Ramadan and Merry Holi?? How about Happy Samhain a couple of months before xmas? Does the church of satan have any major holidays?

  • JohnnieCanuck

    So this is how he pads his resumé? Must have been a quiet year for him up until now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.renaud.165 Joe Renaud

    Sometimes, I get a little wistful, thinking about the fun I could have if only I taught in Texas instead of Oregon….

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Somehow I knew it was bad news even just from the start of the headline “Texas politician proposes Bill…”!

  • Tom

    Our representatives have enough on their plate
    without having to worry about frivolous bills for celebrating
    Christmas and Hanukkah. It cuts both ways, Dwayne.

  • Baby_Raptor

    26 people were murdered in cold blood barely a week ago, 20 of them kindergartners and this is what the Republicans are doing. Fighting an imaginary war on a holiday.

    AMERICA, FUCK YEAH! /dripping sarcasm

  • A3Kr0n

    Even if the bill doesn’t pass Bohac stills wins because he’ll claim he’s fighting against god-less evil, and you get to start all over again. I don’t want to sound cynical, but damn, isn’t that what’s going to happen?

    • jdm8

      I think introducing bills that are known to be non-starters is a common tactic. That way the bill sponsors can pretend to be serious about a topic important to their constituents, and it gives them talking points on their opponents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.pye Matthew Curry Pye

    whats wrong with any of those doomsday scenarios you described? as a fellow athiest, just enjoy the art and harden up a little bit.

    • SphericalBunny

      Guess you haven’t heard the ‘it’s tradiiiiitiiioooonnn’ arguments, nor the ones where people of alternative-or-none religious views get persecuted up the wazoo? (often because ‘it’s a tradiiiitiiioooooon’ or ‘believe *this* bull, coz you ain’t no ‘merkin else’) I’m almost impressed, dude. I have, and I live in a foreign country.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    As a Texan, I’m not surprised by this at all. The Christian persecution complex is huge here, despite the overwhelming Christian majority. For the moment, Bohac’s proposal doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the discussions taking place at a local school district to allow teachers to have concealed handguns in their classrooms. There’s always something crazy going on around here.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Dear Hemant Mehta,

    I am a lawyer representing the phrase “great idea.” You may not be aware of this but my client has gotten a restraining order against the phrase “Republican state legislator.” The phrase “Republican State legislator” must maintain a distance of at least 500 words. I realize that the threat of a law suit seems to be a bit extreme, but the truth is that the phrase “Republican state legislator,” has been harassing and besmirching my client for years. Frequently, RSL has claimed a close relationship with my client despite never actually meeting my client. Proof of this is that RSL failed to identify my client in a line-up proving that RSL has no clue what “great ideas” look like. So both my client and I would appreciate that in the future you respect the restraining order.

    Sincerely,
    Holytape, Esquire reader.

    (P.S. “Great Ideas” also has a restraining order against Michele Bachmann.)

  • Crazy Russian

    Admit it, Christians, you don’t actually give a shit about Hanukkah. I bet you don’t even know when it is or what it’s about. Just as long as you get to stick it to them damn atheists.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      My son’s school is pretty heavy on Hanukkah. I think there may be more Hindus in the school than Jews, but whatever. At least they’re trying.

      • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

        It’s a shame Diwali doesn’t really line up timewise with Christmas and Hanukkah.

        • allein

          My work does more for Diwali than for Hanukkah (they put up lights and do a special menu in the cafeteria). I work at a warehouse and most of the workers are Hispanic; Indian is probably the second biggest group. Of course, we have a big Christmas tree in the cafeteria, a smaller one in the front lobby, and this year they put up one of those hideous inflatable lawn Santas in the lobby for about a day (I have a feeling the receptionist probably complained about the noise of the motor – I know I would have – and he disappeared pretty quickly). For Hanukkah there is a small menorah behind the reception desk and a “Happy Hanukkah” slide on the monitors in the warehouse and cafeteria in between the birthdays and safety reminders, and some of the people in the office area also put up a menorah on their own. (My favorite decoration, though, is one of the departments makes a snowman out of clear trash bags and packing peanuts.)

          • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

            Sounds like fun. When I was a kid, I had a major obsession with Hanukkah. Never mind that no one in my family was Jewish, I ordered Hanukkah craft books from the school book club, made latkes, and demanded dreidels for Christmas.

            I only became familiar with Indian holidays after doing a report on Hinduism in ninth grade, but I think Diwali and Holi both sound awesome. If they ever take off here in America, I’m game.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    There’s a don’t-miss comment on the article:

    Yes, schools have many concerns – this isn’t one of them. How about addressing $5.4 billion in cuts, 160K unfunded students, an accountability system that grades based only on the progress of your lowest performing population subset, unfunded mandates, a quarter of Texas students living in poverty, etc., etc. Once we get through these, perhaps we can then look at Christmas concerns. Does anyone in the Texas legislature have any kinds of common sense or priorities? Anyone???

    — Kim Burkett

    Seems Bohac was one of the ones responsible for $5.4 billion in school cuts http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Texas-Democrats/message/22797

  • Houndentenor

    Has anyone actually been sued for saying “Merry Christmas”? Or Happy Hanukah? Or any other well-intentioned greeting? Of course not. This is just more fake-outrage from the professional victims on the right.

  • Octoberfurst

    Wow! I’ll bet Christians all around Texas are breathing a HUGE sigh of relief knowing they can say “Merry Christmas” in public schools without being subjected to—–uhhh–subjected to—fines?—-no?—dismissal?—-no?—umm—jail time?—-no?—ok, give me a minute here—a beating?—-no? Hmmm. Gee what was the problem that this was supposed to solve?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    What I’ve tried to point out to Christians lately is that actions like Bohac’s actually do more harm to Christians than to anyone else. Without a doubt there is a chilling effect with regards to religion in US schools. Kids are told they can’t take their bibles to school. Kids are told they can’t pray in school. And yes, I’m well aware of the cases where Gideons is giving bibles to kids. Or rappers are invited to rap about Jesus during class time assemblies. And the football run-through banners. But for every one of those unconstitutional acts, there’s some student or parent who thinks they don’t have the legal rights they do.

    But Bohac wants to perpetuate the myth that students aren’t allowed to pray in school, by throwing fuel on the fire of misinformation; ‘protecting’ a right that already exists. While he’s busy gutting education, he needs to make up some strawman to defend against so he can win votes. And while everyone is watching the strawman burn, school budgets are cut. And kids are discouraged from exercising their first amendment right to pray on their own in school.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Could you please provide links to credible stories where kids are told that they cannot have their bibles or pray? Because I’ve not heard of it, and it seems like something that would cause a massive amount of outrage.

      There is no “chilling effect” with regards to religion in schools. Students are free to pray by themselves or in like-minded groups. They can have their bibles, or religious themed material. They can go around “witnessing,” so long as they neither harass people or interrupt class. What cannot be done is that people who don’t want to participate being forced to.

      This is not a “chilling effect.” It’s not a denial of someones’ rights. It’s Not Christian rights being respected.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I don’t think I can give you what I think you’re asking for, because I’m not sure you understand what I’m saying. You should know me well enough to know that I’m not arguing what kids can do in school, what I’m arguing is what a lot of people think they can’t do in school.

        The best evidence I could give you is all those stupid pictures on FB proclaiming that we have school shootings because we’ve “kicked God out of school”. Or this thing http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/newprayer.asp Or the story about the kids in NY who were “suspended for Tebowing”. They were actually suspended for blocking the hallway and refusing to move, but that’s not the way the poor persecuted Christians see it. Or there was some movie Hemant blogged about a while back that had a scene about a kid getting in trouble for having a bible in his locker. I’m not going to dig for it. Had a guy waving a giant flag from a roof. Or read the comments on just about any mainstream article that involves school and religion.

        It’s just my opinion, so I could be wrong. I don’t know of any polling data on this, but I’d be interested to see it. I do think though that a lot of American don’t have any clue about the actual rules involving religion in school, and many of them underestimate those rights.

        Anybody else? I could probably make an argument the other way too, given Cranston and Kuntze.

  • Andrew

    “Saying ‘Happy Solstice,’ of course, still lands you in the electric chair…”

    Actually, in Texas, executions are still done by hanging, another evidence of their extremely progressive attitudes.

  • Rufus

    So when is the new law to permit the hunting of snarks due to be passed in Texas, after all, it must be down to the evil atheists suing and releasing stray boojums that prevents it at present…

  • hart

    I stand with Dwayne Bohac. God bless his efforts to allow the free exercise of religion.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Get back to us when your religion is actually threatened. It’s not happened yet anywhere but in your head.

  • Aspieguy

    Well, shit. I was going to be appearing on Judge Judy with a Texas teacher who won’t stop saying Merry Christmas. There goes my $5000 for pain and suffering. Republicans spoil everything for me.


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