Austin, TX, June 13, 2013 – Today HB 308, the “Merry Christmas” Bill, was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry at a special ceremony at the Texas Capitol. State Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) and State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) authored HB 308, which received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Texas House and Texas Senate. HB 308 makes it clear that public schools and their staff are permitted to acknowledge and educate students about historic and cultural roots of important holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and others, and with school displays that can include Christmas trees, a Menorah, a Nativity scene, Santa Claus, Reindeer and more.
The legislation also makes it clear that school districts, staff, and students are permitted to use greetings such as “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Holidays” or others. Christmas has been recognized as a federal holiday by the United States since the 1870s. Texas school districts have seen long and costly court cases over Christmas expressions in Plano and Katy, and Fort Worth was recently involved in a controversy over Santa Claus at a public school. Landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases have made it clear that such expressions and displays are permissible.
“We hope HB 308 will decrease the number of school districts being naughty and increase the one’s being nice,” said Jonathan Saenz, attorney and president of Texas Values. “It’s time to end the war on Christmas. This common sense legislation tracks Supreme Court precedent, providing a solid roadmap for public school officials to follow and should help school districts respect First Amendment rights and avoid costly litigation. We thank Gov. Perry for signing this bill into law,” concluded Saenz.
Texas Values provided the main legal guidance and support for the legislation. HB 308 received wide support during the legislative process but was opposed by the ACLU and the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal advocacy group in Austin.