So the Republican lawmaker from Houston has introduced legislation to protect traditional Christmas greetings, decorations and displays in public schools. The bill is appropriately titled, “Merry Christmas Bill.”
“I’m taking these rulings by the Supreme Court and codifying them in a state law to give teachers and administrators a safe harbor to point to when drafting their policies regarding winter celebrations,” Bohac said.
The “Merry Christmas Bill” would afford students and teachers the right to celebrate Christmas on school property with displays including Menorahs, Christmas trees and Nativity scenes. It would also clarify the right of school districts to use traditional greetings such as “Merry Christmas,” Happy Hanukkah,” or “Happy Holidays” on school grounds.
“I think it’s sad that I have to file a bill like this,” Bohac told Fox News. “But because of the censorship going on in our public schools and the fear of litigation teachers live with – I’m trying to provide a measure of protection.”
Bohac said he was inspired to introduce the legislation after a conversation he had with his first grade son. His son told him about their classroom’s holiday tree decorated with holiday ornaments.
“When I asked what a holiday tree was, he told me it was the same as a Christmas tree,” he said.
Bohac said school administrators told him they used the term “holiday” because they were afraid of getting sued.
“I think it’s silly that we can’t refer to a Christmas tree as a Christmas tree – that public schools in Texas don’t feel comfortable putting out Nativities,” he said. “They don’t feel comfortable calling a classroom party a Christmas party. It’s time we do something about it and it’s time we put something into Texas state law.”
“For them to include traditional religious Christmas carols is perfectly constitutional,” said Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. “The courts have clearly held that it’s constitutional for schools to include traditional religious carols as part of a secular educational music program.”
The ADF said they sent a letter to the Missoula, Mont. School district advising them of their rights under the law and offered to give them legal support in the event of a lawsuit.
A group of parents lodged a complaint about a Christmas concert at Chief Charlo Elementary School. They alleged songs like “Joy to the World” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice” are forms of bullying.
“Bullying is such a hot topic, yet that seems to be what is occurring here,” the parents wrote in a letter obtained by The Missoulian. “When the children are singing about the lord and savior Jesus Christ – public school is not the place.”
Sharp said they are seeing a national effort to “remove any celebrations of Christmas.”
“It gives students a truncated view of American history and culture if we have to censor and remove anything that has religious origin or content,” he said. “So much of it is based on our nation’s Christian heritage and traditions.”
The banners are owned by the Knights of Columbus and were installed by New Braunfels Utilities several weeks ago. But a spokesperson for the company said it was a mistake and the signs have since been removed.
“Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the message, NBU is a municipal utility and cannot lawfully display a religious message,” said Gretchen Reuwer, the utility’s communications manager.
She said their policy does not allow any signs or banners promoting a specific religious message.
“While one message may be strong supported by many in the community, the next message may prove to be just as strongly offensive.”
Reuwer told Fox News they do allow non-profit groups to hang banners – but it’s only for fundraising events. She said the signs cannot promote religious messages.
“We made an error in accepting the banner,” she said. “It was a simple human error – and to compound it – it was also a banner with a message that was specifically religious.”
The removal of the signs has sparked outrage in the community – especially among members of the Knights of Columbus.
“The bottom line is Christ is the reason for the Christmas season,” Joe Hernandez told Fox News. “He’s the reason for the special holiday – his birthday.”
Hernandez, and other members of the Knights of Columbus, said they want to know who complained – and why they took issue with the banner.
“All we were doing was voicing our opinion – that Christ should be kept in Christmas,” Hernandez said.
The Knights of Columbus are active in New Braunfels – sponsoring Habitat for Humanity projects, a hospice, a Boy Scout troop – and even providing scholarships for local students.
Hernandez said it’s not surprising that the war on Christmas has come to their Texas town.
“It’s not a war on Christmas,” he said. “I think it’s a war on Christ – period.”
A group of parents in Missoula, Mont. are upset over the religious nature of Christmas songs performed at a local elementary school – alleging the songs about the Baby Jesus is unconstitutional and a “form of bullying.”
The parents, who declined to be identified, are threatening to sue the Missoula County Public School District unless songs like “Joy to the World” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice” are replaced with secular tunes.
“Bullying is such a hot topic, yet that seems to be what is occurring here,” the parents wrote in a letter obtained by The Missoulian.“When the children are singing about the lord and savior Jesus Christ – public school is not the place.”
The complaint came from parents who have children attending Chief Charlo Elementary School. A number of students are Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim.
They said they have no problem with Frosty the Snowman or Santa Claus – but the real reason for the Christmas season has no place in school concerts, they argued.
“One of the largest complaints last year was the young children singing about “their Lord,” they wrote.
Superintendent Alex Apostle told The Missoulian that he takes separation of church and state issues seriously.
“These are difficult waters sometimes, and I think we are moving forward in a respectful way,” he told the newspaper. “We as a school system, want our children to enjoy the holiday season. In the process, we are obviously respectful of the beliefs and cultures of all children and their families.
The holiday production at Jordan-Jackson Elementary School has been a long-time tradition in the community. But last year’s performance drew complaints from some parents who objected to the religious nature of the show.
“We certainly haven’t done away with Christmas in Mansfield,” said Brenda Hodges, superintendent of Mansfield Public Schools. “We just had a little change at that particular school because they had a big initiative on anti-bullying.”
She denied that complaints about religion had anything to do with their decision.
“There were complaints but if we make changes based on a half dozen complaints, I’d be changing every other day,” she said.
So this year’s holiday concert was cancelled and replaced with an anti-bullying production that will make its debut in January – during Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday week.
Hodges said the music instructors chose MLK week “because he was all about peace.”
“They wanted to make the theme around peace, friendship, kindness, be good to your fellow students, and accept differences and be supportive,” Hodges told Fox News.
But don’t expect any yuletide carols at the January show.
“They are not making it a Christmas holiday,” she said. “It’s about peace and friendship – not Jingle Bells.”
The decision to cancel the holiday show has generated lots of outrage in the community.
“I cannot believe that parents would complain about a tradition,” wrote a reader on the local Patch website. “Everything these days has to be politically correct. What is this world coming to when children cannot put on a Christmas play?”
Another reader suggested that individuals who objected to the religious nature of a Christmas program should “stay home.”
“Spineless cowards,” is how one reader summed up the school administration’s decision.
Hodges told Fox News that parents were notified of the change in September – and not one person complained. She said she’s disappointed in the community response.
“I think our parents could take some lessons from our children sometimes – in being kind and respectful,” she said.
As for the loss of a long-cherished tradition?
“It’s not going to happen this year,” she replied. “I guess some people would refer to it as a tradition because it’s been done for a long time.”
In the meantime she said people are more than welcome to attend holiday performances at the middle and high schools.
“Well the fact that you just said ‘Christmas,’ I think, is the hot-button item because people say ‘Happy Holidays,’ they don’t know what to say,” Snyderman said in response to a question about whether Christmas had become too commercialized.
The Navy directed service members serving in Bahrain to cancel and dismantle a “Live Nativity” after receiving a complaint from a military atheist group who said the manger scene endangered Americans serving in a Muslim country and violated the U .S. Constitution.
The chaplain at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain confirmed to Fox News the nativity scene was cancelled – but referred any further comments to the NSA’s public information officer.
The “Live Nativity” was a long-standing tradition at NSA Bahrain that featured the children of military personnel dressed as shepherds, wise men, along with Mary and Joseph. It was part of a larger festival that included a tree lighting, Christmas music and photographs with Santa Claus and a camel.
ists and Freethinkersobjected to the Nativity and filed a complaint with the Navy’s Inspector General. They argued the Nativity promoted “Christianity as the official religion of the base.”
The atheist group also worried that the Nativity put service members in danger.
“Also of concern is the likelihood that the predominantly Muslim local population will see the U.S. military as a Christian force rather than a secular military support U.S. – but not necessarily Christian values in their Muslim country,” the MAAF wrote in their complaint. “This even threatens U.S. security and violates the Constitution as well as command policy.”
“It’s unconstitutional, it’s bad for the military and in a Muslim country it’s dangerous,” MAAF spokesman Jason Torpy told Fox News.
“Upon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time,” read a statement the Navy reportedly sent the NAAF.
Some service members in Bahrain told Fox News called the cancellation heartbreaking and children who were supposed to act in the Nativity were devastated.
“It was horrible,” said one officer who asked not to be identified. “It was devastating. Here we are serving in the Middle East, defending our country and other people’s religions and we couldn’t understand why we can’t enjoy our own religious freedoms.”
Crews had already started building the Nativity structure, but orders were given to have it dismantled.
“You can go outside the gate and hear Christmas music, but on the base you can’t have a Nativity,” said another officer. “The sense of hypocrisy is overwhelming.”
Torpy said the idea that the Nativity has been a long-cherished tradition at NSA Bahrain doesn’t make it right. He compared it to slavery.
“We’re talking about the United States promoting Christianity to defenseless little kids in bathrobes,” he told Fox News. “We’re talking about the United States government saying, ‘Hey – we’re going to have a bunch of kids out here and we’re going to promote Christianity in a Muslim country to service members.’”
The website Christian Fighter Pilotfirst exposed the controversy – and noted sarcastically that service members in Bahrain “have now experienced the friendly influence of atheism on their holiday.”
Pastors and religious liberty advocates are expressing shock and outrage over the yuletide controversy.
“It is unthinkable that our own military would violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religious expression–a freedom that our forefathers sacrificed their lives to provide for us,” said Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. “Taxpayers give the military hundreds of billions of dollars every year to protect our constitutional freedoms, not to trample upon them.”
Ron Crews, of Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Fox News he was disappointed the Navy “has caved in and not stood their ground to allow military personnel to express their religious beliefs.”
“It appears we have some leaders who have become overly sensitive to any threat of a lawsuit,” Crews said. “This is another example of this group’s effort to promote freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion.”
Crews said it’s nothing less than a “war on Christmas.”
Hiram Sasser, of the Liberty Institute, said the law is clearly on the side of the service members.
“Once again the Grinches prove their hearts are two sizes too small,” Sasser told Fox News. “The Supreme Court already saved nativity Christmas displays in 1984 and the Navy of all organizations shouldn’t back down against Grinches when law and history are on its side.”
Torpy said he is pleased with how the Navy handled the matter.
“We want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to exercise their religion freely and we want to make sure people on the base have fun and exciting activities available for them without feeling like the base itself is establishing Christianity as the preferred belief system,” he told Fox News.
This image, provided by Christian Fighter Pilot, shows before and after images of flyers promoting the holiday event.
76 percent of those surveyed believe the emphasis of the yuletide season should be on the baby born in a manger.
Only 14 percent thought the holiday should be more about Santa Claus. Ten percent said they were not sure.
The religious part of Christmas has come under attack in recent years from atheists, academics and activist courts – ruling that Nativity scenes, Christmas carols and in some cases even the words “Merry Christmas” are not appropriate in public settings.
Robert Jeffress, a noted author and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas said the Rasmussen survey comes at a welcome time.
“It proves that despite all of their bravado and bluster, secularists have miserably failed in turning Christmas into simply a winter holiday in the minds of most Americans,” Jeffress told Fox News. “Even the most hardened atheist or secularist has to concede that the entire world still marks its calendar by the most important event in history—the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.”
The mega-church pastor said the survey should also serve as a warning to judges attempting to banish the religious symbols of the holiday.
“Judges who are attempting to strip Christmas celebrations of any religious expressions should carefully consider this poll and realize how out of step they are with the vast majority of American citizens,” Jeffress said.
The black and white illustration was designed by Iowa artist Larassa Kabel and shows Bo the dog, wearing a scarf, while frolicking in the snow on the South Lawn of a blurred White House.
The inside of the card reportedly reads, “This season, may your home be filled with family, friends, and the joy of the holidays.” The card is signed by the entire First Family — along with Bo’s paw print.
The 2012 card made no mention of any specific holiday nor did it include a Bible verse noting the birth of Christ.
The Obama family dog also plays a prominent role in yuletide decorations around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The Daily Mail reports that Bo is featured in nearly every room of the White House — from miniature licorice and marshmallow versions of the canine — to a nearly life-side replica of the dog. A statue of Bo made of marzipan sits outside the massive gingerbread replica of the White House.
Courtesy of White House
White House Christmas trees are decorated with ornaments made in the dog’s likeness — and the newspaper reported that holiday visitors will receive a Bo bookmark that leads them on a scavenger hunt to find Bo-themed decorations throughout the building.
Last year’s card also featured Bo — and made no mention of the word ‘Christmas.’ The front of last year’s card showed the dog lounging by a fireplace surrounded by holiday greenery. Presents were placed on a table underneath a poinsettia – instead of a Christmas tree.
President Obama’s”holiday” cards have been the subject of controversy in the past. His 2009 greeting card made no reference to Christmas, drawing the ire of Republican Congressman Henry Brown.
“I believe that sending a Christmas card without referencing a holiday and its purpose limits the Christmas celebration in favor of a more ‘politically correct’ holiday,” the South Carolina congressman told Fox News Radio in 2009.
Former President Bush did not mention Merry Christmas in his cards, but had a history of including Bible passages on the White House Christmas Cards.
For his final Christmas in office, the president sent a greeting card that included a verse from the Gospel of Matthew.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” the card read.
But that was back in the day when Jesus was the reason for the season – not a Portuguese Water dog.
The resolution accused the Salvation Army of discriminating against gays and lesbians and urged the public university to immediately revoke their license to operate on campus property.
“Allowing the Salvation Army to collect donations on campus is a passive form of financial assistance, that empowers the organization to spend the money it raises here in order to discriminate and advocate discrimination against queer people,” the resolution reads.
Student government leaders feared that homosexual students “may take offense to the presence of collection containers operated by a discriminatory religious organization in their places of living.”
Salvation Army spokesperson Jennifer Byrd denied the ministry is anti-gay – and took offense to a particular passage that accused them of offering help only to people “who accept and abide by the Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline, which exclusive homosexuality.”
She told Fox News that accusation is “totally false.”
“The only requirement for service from The Salvation Army is demonstrated need and our ability to meet it,” she said. “Any allegation of discrimination at a Salvation Army center is thoroughly investigated because it’s against our established policy and practice.”
She stressed that their mission is to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
Byrd also took issue with allegations that the Salvation Army raises money to advocate discrimination – again calling it “false.”
“Money contributed in Berkeley – or anywhere else – stays in the community where it was given to provide services to people in need,” she said.
Reaction to the possible ban has been mixed.
Nick Helbig told KGO, “Donating to the Salvation Army doesn’t mean that you’re prejudiced against gays and lesbians, it just means that you want to help people.”
But a number of critics have lashed out against the Christian charity on websites like Towelroad.
“I can’t stand it, can’t walk into the grocery store without hearing that stupid bell, that hurts your ears when it’s cold, and then they say Merry Christmas at me like they know I’m gay and would be offended by it,” one reader wrote.