Killeen Independent School District officials are backing a decision made by a middle school principal who ordered the removal of a holiday decoration that included a Bible verse.
The door decoration was inspired by a scene in the Peanuts classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
District administrator reviewed the decision made by Patterson Middle School Principal Kara Trevino about the door decoration, and the district “supports the actions taken by the principal in requesting that the reference to the Bible verse be removed,” officials said Friday in a statement to the Herald.
The decision gained attention and sparked outrage after it was highlighted Thursday in an online column by Todd Starnes, a conservative columnist and radio personality.
Patterson staffer Dedra Shannon was inspired by a scene in the animated holiday special and used images to decorate the door to the school nurse’s office, according to Starnes’ column, which is published by Fox News Channel online and elsewhere.
In the scene, Peanuts character Linus van Pelt stands on a stage and recites a passage describing the Christmas story: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Starnes, in the column, said he spoke with Shannon directly.
“(Trevino) said my poster is an issue of separation of church and state,” Shannon told Starnes. “(The principal) said the poster had to come down because it might offend kids from other religions or those who do not have a religion.”
Starnes has a photo of the decorated door, including the Bible verse and a drawing of the Linus character, on his website.
The school’s decision to remove the decoration is based on a Texas law known as the Merry Christmas Bill, which was signed in 2013 by then-Gov. Rick Perry.
“Upon review, it is clear that this display was not in keeping with the Merry Christmas Bill (House Bill 308), which requires that a display not encourage adherence to a particular religion,” the statement from the school district said. “Our employees are free to celebrate the Christmas and holiday season in the manner of their choosing. However, employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students.”
The district added: “The Killeen Independent School District celebrates and embraces the diverse cultures and values of our students and employees. We remain proud of our diversity and the community which we serve.”
Starnes said he hopes the school district will reconsider its decision to censor Shannon’s “lovely Christmas decorations,” and said Shannon was “simply educating students about the true meaning of Christmas.”
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over nonreligion, or nonreligion over religion.
Source: Cornell University Law School