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A School Cannot Violate the First Amendment at Christmas

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Published on: December 12, 2016

Every year in December we are faced with a new parade of horribles in which mean-spirited and crabby liberals make fresh attempts to impose anti-Christian bigotry on one school, classroom, and teacher after another.

The knock on the Puritans, false as it was, was that they were desperately afraid that someone, somewhere, was having fun. Well, with the Victorian prudes of the anti-Christ movement, it’s a bit different. They are desperately afraid that someone, somewhere, is enjoying religious liberty.

Todd Starnes recently posted a story about Dedra Shannon, a staffer at Patterson Middle School in Killeen, Texas. Ms. Shannon offended the gods of mindless progressivism by having the effrontery to put a poster featuring images from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on the door to the nurse’s office. The poster included a quote from the most widely read piece of literature in world history, uttered about one of the most influential men in world history: “For unto is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord.”

In a matter of two days, Ms. Shannon was ordered by the principal to rip the poster down on the grounds that it violated the Constitution.

This is flatly impossible. It is impossible for a school to violate the First Amendment to the Constitution by celebrating “Christmas” break. It’s impossible for a school nurse to violate the First Amendment with a poster on her door. It’s impossible for a student to violate the First Amendment by bringing candy canes to school. It’s impossible for a school choir singing “Silent Night” to violate the First Amendment. It’s impossible for a teacher to violate the First Amendment by reading the Christmas story from the Bible to her class.

Why? Because none of them is Congress.

The first word in the First Amendment is the word “Congress.” “CONGRESS shall make no law…” The First Amendment as given to us by the Founders (not the one mangled beyond recognition by the Supreme Court) binds only the Congress of the United States. It ties the hands of Congress and, by extension, the entire federal government, since only Congress has the constitutional authority to make law.

No branch of the federal government – not the legislative branch, nor the executive branch, nor the judicial branch – is allowed to “prohibit…the free exercise” of religion. Whatever else a federal judge is doing when he bans Christmas programs or Christmas songs or Christmas plays or Christmas posters is restricting the free and open exercise of religious faith, and that he is flatly forbidden to do.

Now to be sure this decision in Texas was made not by a judge but by a severely misguided and constitutionally mis-educated school official. But quite likely she did it out of fear that if she herself didn’t prohibit religious expression some federal judge would do it for her.

If we are to be guided by the Constitution then we should understand that the federal government is utterly forbidden by the Constitution to interfere with matters of religious expression at every level. And since the First Amendment has never been amended, it means the same thing today as when it was first adopted in 1791.

Matters of religious expression were reserved by the Founders exclusively and entirely for the states. The states are allowed the freedom under the Founders’ Constitution to regulate religious expression anyway they choose.

And fortunately, the constitution (“No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion…” [Article I, Section 6]) and the law of Texas are squarely on the side of Linus and the Christmas story.

In fact, Texas state law is unambiguously on the side of the school nurse. The Texas legislature passed the “Merry Christmas” law in 2013, which declares that no school official in the state can silence a biblical reference to Christmas.

Said state attorney general Ken Paxton, “I am proud to have voted for the Merry Christmas law in 2013, when I was a member of the legislature. We passed that law precisely because of this type of discrimination against people of faith.”

He went on to correctly and constitutionally analyze what just happened to Ms. Shannon’s poster.

“This is an attack on religious liberty and a violation of the First Amendment and state law. I am calling on the school board of the Killeen ISD to immediately reverse their unlawful decision.”

The Killeen school board has fought the good fight for religious liberty before. Trustees changed “Winter Break” back to “Christmas Break,” ignored a demand from the inaptly named Freedom From Religion Foundation to cease praying before board meetings, and refused President Obama’s absurdly immoral diktat that the school open girls’ locker rooms to guys.

It’s time to restore religious liberty in America, and there’s no better place to begin than the door to the nurse’s office at Patterson Middle School.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

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