Eleven months before Christmas bells start ringing, Indiana already started decorating the tree.
On Monday State senators approved legislation that will allow holiday celebrations back in schools. Approval from the full House and governor is needed before the bill becomes law.
“It’s just crazy that we even have to move a bill like that, but I think it’s very well needed in the state and in every state,” said State Sen. Jim Smith (R), the co-author of the measure. The Charlestown Republican says that “Christmas is under attack,” and this bill will help curtail the disturbing effect lawsuits in other states have on holiday celebrations.
The bill was unanimously passed by the full Indiana Senate. If the bill becomes law, it will allow schools to decorate with Nativity scenes or menorahs if paired with another religious or secular symbol. Moreover, the law will permit schools to teach the history of winter holidays and traditional holiday greetings, such as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah.”
Last year, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law a “Merry Christmas Bill” that allows Texas public schools to teach about Christmas and display Christmas decorations and Hanukah menorahs.
Perry agreed with Smith: “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,” says Texas State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston). Bohac, who authored the Texas “Merry Christmas Law,” believes that “we don’t have to be so sensitive that our brain falls completely out when talking about a federal holiday that has been with us since 1870.” The Republican assemblyman embraces the Christmas spirit all year round. He keeps a sign in his office that reads, “Be Merry and Stay That Way.”
Nevertheless, the ACLU cautions that the courts will have some say in this matter. “Schools are different,” said Kenneth Falk, legal director for the Indiana chapter of the ACLU. “In the school setting, courts are much more concerned about coercion.” All this leads one to conclude that, for Indiana, the tree is being decorated but the lights aren’t turned on quite yet.