Representative Patricia Morgan Wants Teachers to Have Freedom to Say Merry Christmas in Rhode Island Classrooms
STATE HOUSE -- Representative Patricia Morgan (R-District 26 Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) along with members of the House Minority Caucus will introduce legislation during the 2017 session, giving the legal freedom to Rhode Island teachers to say, “Merry Christmas” to students during school time. Additional sponsors include Representative Anthony Giarrusso (R-District 30 East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Representative Sherry Roberts (R-District 29 Coventry, West Greenwich), Representative Justin Price (R-District 39 Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond), and Representative Robert A. Nardolillo III. (R-District 28 Coventry).
Representative Morgan intends to submit her bill in January. Rep. Morgan’s bill relates to a school district’s recognition of and education regarding traditional winter celebrations, and will allow school districts across the state of Rhode Island to educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations, and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Happy Hanukkah’ and ‘happy holidays’.
Representative Morgan’s law is modeled after a similar state law in Texas. The Merry Christmas Law passed the Texas Legislature and was signed into law in 2013. Texas’ law guarantees the freedom of the state’s children, teachers, parents, and school administrators to acknowledge Christmas on school grounds without fear of censorship, prosecution or litigation.
Recently, a Texas school principal forced a staffer to take Charlie Brown Christmas decorations off a school door because it included a quote from Linus which had the word “Christ” in it.
The principal reportedly said it was “an issue of separation of church and state.” The Texas Attorney General called the action “an attack on religious liberty and a violation of the First Amendment and state law.” Thanks to Texas’ new law, the teacher was free from prosecution.
“Christmas is a part of the very fabric of this country. The traditions that are passed down from generation to generation enrich and inform our culture. They form a basis for our ‘melting pot’ and are another piece that binds our country together. No school teacher or staff member should risk censure for teaching about those holiday traditions.” stated Morgan.
Representative Morgan’s bill will also allow school districts to display scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, on school property, including a Christmas image such as a Christmas tree or nativity scene, or a menorah.
Morgan said, “The goal here is to give everyone the freedom they deserve to say ‘Merry Christmas’ but not to encourage adherence to any particular religious belief.”
For more information, contact:
Raina C. Smith, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903