Gov. Rick Perry: ‘Religious Freedom Does Not Mean Freedom From Religion’

We knew this was going to happen weeks ago but it’s finally official: You won’t be punished in Texas if you say “Merry Christmas” (everyone can breathe out now):

The bill, signed into law Thursday by Governor Rick Perry, promises that teachers and students can say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “happy holidays” without repercussion. Even though no one was ever stopping them from doing that…

Religious holiday displays will also be allowed, as long as they don’t overtly promote one particular religion (tough loopholes are everywhere):

… a school district may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of:

(1) more than one religion; or
(2) one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.

A display relating to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.

Gov. Perry was thrilled about how he saved Christmas from those fictional people who were trying to ruin it:

“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.”

Again: The bill wasn’t required because no one fought Christmas displays or sayings unless there was any sort of implication that the government was endorsing Christianity in some way… in other words, Perry signed a law to stop the people who defend the Constitution. Then, he trashed atheists in the process of promoting “religious freedom.”

And just to rub it in atheists’ faces, Perry invited the cheerleaders from Kountze High School to the signing ceremony. They came in red shirts that read “I cheer for Christ.”

Subtle.

Gov. Perry signs the ‘Merry Christmas’ bill with the Kountze cheerleaders (in red) behind him (Marjorie Kamys Cotera – The Texas Tribune)

Dave Muscato of American Atheists has already pointed out some of the inevitable consequences of this bill:

… Muscato feared that the passage of this bill would be seen as a public victory for religion over what he calls equality. “In practice this will probably play out as Christian administrators putting up Christmas trees and nativity scenes at taxpayer expense in public schools with the result of pressuring children into viewing Christianity as an officially sponsored and endorsed practice,” he said.

Seeing no “legitimate secular purpose for this” bill, he opposed it because it might imply “government endorsement and unnecessarily entangles government and religion.”

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that a Republican from Texas started another unnecessary war, even if it is just a made-up War on Christmas.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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