A Texas school board has ignored the advice of the state attorney general and voted to back the ban on a Charlie Brown Christmas display because it contains the word “Christ.”
The trustees for the Killeen Independent School District voted 6-1 to continue the ban.
Breitbart Texas reported that the controversial issue had been placed on the school board agenda for Tuesday. Only school board President Terry Delano voted against the continued ban of the Christmas display.
As reported by Breitbart Texas on Friday, a Texas school principal told the staffer she had to remove the part of a Charlie Brown Christmas decoration display that included a quote from Linus which included the word “Christ.” The quote was a message about the meaning of Christmas. Principal Kara Trevino was reported to have told the school staffer, Dedra Shannon, that it was “an issue of separation of church and state.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded by calling the principal’s directive “an attack on religious liberty and a violation of the First Amendment and state law.” He urged, “I am calling on the school board of the Killeen Independent School District (ISD) to immediately reverse their unlawful decision.”
Paxton Texas voted for the “Merry Christmas law” when he was a Texas state legislator. He said, “We passed that law precisely because of this type of discrimination against people of faith. No school official in Texas can silence a Biblical reference to Christmas.”
Paxton pinned a letter (attached below) to the school board trustees before the meeting on Tuesday. In it he advises:
Based on public comments, both the principal and Killeen ISD objected to the Christmas poster for fear that it violated the First Amendment and would lead to a lawsuit. Although these concerns are not surprising in an age of frivolous litigation by anti-Christian interest groups, they stem from an incorrect reading of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court has held repeatedly that neither “students [n]or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Staff members therefore may express their take on the holiday without infringing on the Constitution, even if they incorporate some religious terminology.
The “Merry Christmas Law” as it is referred to, was passed in 2013 to address such issues say opponents of the school and school district’s actions. Texas HB 308 amended Texas Education Code to protect the right of students and teachers to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. Texas State Representative Dwayne Bohac was the author of the “Merry Christmas Bill.”
In his letter to the school trustees, Paxton said that this law “encourages school districts to take a more inclusive approach to religious and secular celebrations. The statute explicitly grants school districts the option of educating its students about traditional winter holidays, the meaning of these holidays, and how they are referenced in history and pop culture, which ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ certainly satisifies.”
The Texas AG did not threaten the school district with litigation but told the trustees, “Rest assured that, should you comply with the law, my office will gladly exercise its discretion [under the Texas Education Code] to represent Killeen ISD in any frivolous litigation that might be filed that seeks to inhibit the religious expression and diversity of Killeen’s educational community.”
Shannon, a clinic aide at Patterson Middle School in Killeen ISD told Breitbart Texas before the school board meeting:
I’m saddened that Killeen ISD forced me to remove my Charlie Brown Christmas display. I believe it is discriminatory to not allow Christians, like myself, to put up a display that is simply an expression of the story of Christmas. I hope the school board takes action to end this religious hostility and allows me to acknowledge Christmas without having my display censored.
The Charlie Brown Christmas door decoration bore the following quote from “A Charlie Brown Christmas:”
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Representatives from Texas Values, “a non-profit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas,” and lawyer and president of the organization, Jonathan Saenz spoke at the school board trustee meeting.
The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.’ It does not require ‘separation of church and state,’ a phrase that appears nowhere in the Constitution. Indeed, the idea that the Constitution requires ‘separation of church and state’ is incompatible with longstanding and perfectly constitutional practices, including the practice of asking schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning—punctuated with the phrase ‘one nation under God.’
He also says that the school district’s assertion that Ms. Shannon “is impos[ing] [her] personal beliefs on students … evinces a gross hostility to religion.” The Killeen ISD released a statement last Friday that said in part, “Our employees are free to celebrate the Christmas and Holiday season in the manner of their choosing. However, employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students.”
The school district’s stated legal position on the issue is that, “it is clear that this display was not in keeping with the Merry Christmas Bill (House Bill 308), which requires that a display not encourage adherence to a particular religion.”
In a statement released after the vote, Texas Values founder and legal counsel Jonathan Saenz said:
Tonight the Killeen ISD has decided to defy its own community, legal experts, our Texas Attorney General, and numerous state elected officials by voting to support the tearing down of a Charlie Brown Christmas poster in a public school. This attack on religious freedom and refusal to acknowledge clear federal and state law specifically on this issue is incredibly reckless and has placed the school board in a very dangerous legal position and an island by themselves.
Saenz held a press conference after the school board vote: