"Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion," Perry declared at the State Capitol building in Austin before signing HB 308, which allows public schools to display scenes and symbols of "traditional winter holidays."
"People of faith too often feel they can't express their faith publicly. And if they dare display it, they find themselves under attack from individuals and organizations that have nothing to do with them or their communities for that matter," Perry continued, nodding toward a group of Kountze High School cheerleaders, who had come to show support after winning a landmark case where a state district judge allowed them to display Bible verses on banners during football games.
The new law, which will go into effect in Texas schools in September, allows schools to have religious displays as long as more than one religion is being represented (or there's a secular symbol next to a display of one religion). The bill also allows teachers to say things like "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Channukah."
One might wonder why such a law is necessary. Republican state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, who introduced the bill, explained how he had become upset upon hearing from his 8-year-old son that the Christmas tree at his public school was referred to as "a holiday tree."
Bohac said he brought his concerns to the school district office, where he was told words like "Christmas" weren't used at the school because officials were afraid of being sued.
"This should not be a tough issue," Bohac said. "This is just political correctness run amok."
The U.S. Constitution specifically forbids government preference of one religion over another. A state law called the "Merry Christmas Bill," if only by its name, would seem to defy that principle.
Check out the website for the bill: