A Texas school district is standing by its decision to remove a Charlie Brown Christmas display from a classroom.
The issue has been placed on the school board agenda for Tuesday afternoon because of the controversy.
A Texas state law effective in 2013 protects the right of students and teachers to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah without fear of retribution.
Texas HB 308 amended Texas Education Code section 29.920 and State Representative Dwayne Bohac was the author of the “Merry Christmas Bill.” Bohac said the bill protects school teachers and others from litigation and harassment, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The “Merry Christmas” bill was signed into law in 2013 by then Governor Rick Perry.
As reported by Breitbart Texas on Friday, a Texas school principal forced a staffer to remove part of a Charlie Brown Christmas decoration display off a school office door because it included a quote from Linus which had the word “Christ” in it.
The principal reportedly said it was “an issue of separation of church and state.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the action “an attack on religious liberty and a violation of the First Amendment and state law.” He said, “I am calling on the school board of the Killeen Independent School District (ISD) to immediately reverse their unlawful decision.”
Dedra Shannon, a clinic aide at Patterson Middle School in Killeen ISD told Breitbart Texas, “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,” are now providing legal representation of Killeen ISD staff member Dedra Shannon.
The legal team sent a letter to Killeen ISD, Principal Kara Trevino, and the trustees of the Killeen School Board which said, “We are concerned that this decision may have been made out of a belief that the Constitution or state law forbids Ms. Shannon’s display. We write to explain that there is nothing in federal or state law that requires you to censor Ms. Shannon’s poster.”
The letter has been attached below.
After the controversy hit the media, the Killeen ISD released this statement on Friday afternoon:
The Killeen ISD administration has reviewed the decision made in regards to the Christmas door decoration, and supports the actions taken by the Principal in requesting that the reference to the Bible verse be removed. 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 display in question was a six–‐foot–‐plus tall door decoration in the main hallway of the school building, and included a reference to a Bible verse covering much of the door. Upon review, 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.
Lawyer Jonathan Saenz, the president of Texas Values said, “The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution says 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.'”
Moreover, “The school district’s suggestion that Ms. Shannon is ‘impos[ing] [her] personal beliefs on students’ by decorating her door in this manner is hyperbolic and defamatory, and evinces a gross hostility to religion.”
Banning historical and religious expressions about Christmas shows hostility to religion that must be stopped. It’s amazing that even a quote from ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas’ is not even safe for some overzealous or misguided government officials. This current national controversy about Christmas is what the Merry Christmas law was designed to prevent when it was passed in 2013. Had Killeen ISD officials simply followed the law and been tolerant and respectful of the diversity of their staff, this incident would not have happened.
Saenz will be at the Killeen School Board meeting Tuesday afternoon to outline Texas law for the trustees and other school officials he says.