Gov. Perry signs 'Merry Christmas' bill into law


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK

Posted on June 13, 2013 at 8:42 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 13 at 6:20 PM

AUSTIN -- Thursday Governor Rick Perry signed what some call the “Merry Christmas” bill into law.

The governor says this was one way to end what he calls the "war on Christmas."

He says anyone can now say "Merry Christmas" or display religious symbols without fear of reprisal at Texas public schools.

When cheerleaders at Kountze High School put a Bible verse on one of their banners, it made national headlines.

“We were very surprised," said cheerleader Rebekah Richardson. “We'd never anticipated such a big controversy and chaos from it.”

Thursday morning, the squad members and Central Texas Santas joined those cheering on Governor Rick Perry's signing of House Bill 308. 

State Representative Duane Bohac sponsored the measure. His son Reagan was the inspiration.

“He told me that they decorated their 'holiday tree' with 'holiday' ornaments,” Rep. Bohac said. “So I thought to myself, 'Why do we call it a 'holiday tree' at school and a 'Christmas tree' at home?'”

House Bill 308 allows public school students and staff to use traditional winter holiday greetings like Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

They can also display religious scenes and symbols like Christmas trees and nativities on school property.

“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 community for that matter,” said Gov. Perry. “In no way does this advocate any particular religion over another. Instead, it insures freedom of expression where for many students teachers and administrators where it's most important.”

Rabbi Zev Johnson says he's happy students can display menorahs and other items of faith without restraint.

“It just gives people, I think, that inspiration to take it a further step of being open and free and to have 'Happy Hanukkah' on people's lips. That's touching. It means a lot,” the rabbi said.

Some Texans say it's interesting the governor is making a point about the freedom they already have.

“Where I don't know if it was necessary or not, I do think that it was very bold of him to do that,” said Amanda Moore.

Ryan Sanders added, “It's freedom of speech. I mean, if you want to be religious you can be religious.”

“We have a God, and he is with all of us at all times, and it's important for everybody to know that he is around,” Devin Sanders said.

This bill doesn't change current law. It's just a way to make sure school districts and staff don't fear litigation.

The governor says by signing the bill he's standing up for religious freedom in the Lone Star State.