Shareholders Present a Review of the “Merry Christmas Bill”

On December 4, 2013, Underwood Law Firm shareholder David Backus made a presentation to Superintendents at the Region 11 Texas Association of School Administrators’ Study Group Meeting about how to “Stay off Santa’s Naughty List this Holiday Christmas Season”.  Included in the presentation was a review of the provisions of House Bill 308, known as the “Merry Christmas Bill”.  The Merry Christmas Bill was passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on June 14, 2013.  The bill is designed to give legal authority for school districts to display traditional winter celebration symbols, including menorahs, nativity scenes, and Christmas trees, as long as more than one religion symbol is reflected in the display or a secular symbol is included with a single religion’s symbols in the display.  The bill also grants statutory authority to school employees and district students to express to one another traditional greetings, such as “Happy Hanukkah”, “Merry Christmas”, and “happy holidays”.  Finally, the bill includes language that prohibits a school district from allowing “a display relating to a traditional winter celebration [that] include[s] a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.”  Striking the proper constitutional balance in public schools at a time when their employees, parents, and students are celebrating traditional religious holidays can be a difficult task. With the information provided to them by David, the superintendents of Region 11 left their TASA Study Group meeting equipped to meet that task.

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