Author Emily Dietle
My focus is on state-church separation & social issues. I'm an avid reader, and feel that one of our most valuable tools is the free movement of information and ideas. | @emilyhasbooks
State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, a Republican from Houston (my hometown) has recently proposed a bill that aims to blur the line of church-state separation in Texas schools. After his elementary school-aged son declared that his class was decorating a “holiday tree,” Bohac decided that he wanted to “provide students, parents, teachers and administrators a safe harbor for openly celebrating a Federal holiday.”
“Our school officials and teachers have enough on their plate without having to worry about frivolous lawsuits for celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah” -Bohac
Though the bill would prohibit schools from using language that promotes adherence to a specific religion, the mere use of Christian or Jewish celebratory greetings is a clear promotion of those specific faiths. Not only are teachers government employees and representatives, they are persons in positions of power over children. Students are pressured into conformity and they don’t have a chance to retort.
If Christmas, Hanukkah, or other religious events are to be celebrated in schools, they would need to be led by the children, and not officiated and endorsed by the school or its government employees. Led by the school or school officials, such greetings and celebrations violate church-state separation and are exclusionary towards those that aren’t of the celebrated faiths, including non-believers.
That the Bill is called ‘The Merry Christmas Bill’ by its author, and only highlights protections for school employees regarding Christianity and Judaism specifically is appalling.
There are plenty of inclusive winter celebrations and greetings that can be teacher and school driven that don’t exclude children of certain faiths and non-believers, that aren’t coercive, and that don’t create a religious atmosphere. Government run schools and the teachers running them need to remain secular bastions of equality.
As an aside, in defense of his proposal, Bohac argued its legitimacy on the grounds that Christmas has been an official federal holiday since 1870, citing “historical and cultural purposes.” Regarding history, it has often been wrong, and many of our federal holidays need to be re-examined, take note of Columbus Day. It is my view that Christmas is wrongly celebrated as a federal holiday, as such an endorsement crosses the border of separation that protects all religious and non-religious citizens from theocratic rule.
I implore you to take five minutes & one stamp to write to the Texas House of Representatives, expressing your concern over this.
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768-2910