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Missouri Overrides Veto of Christmas Bill

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Elf Hermey

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There is a battle over Christmas in Missouri — kinda, sorta, well — not really. The Missouri Merry Christmas Bill — thought to be dead in July — does not even mention Christmas. It is a simple law that says:

Prohibits any state or local governmental entity; public building, park, or school; or public setting or place from banning or restricting the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill in July, declaring it too broad.

But now that the veto has been overridden by the Missouri state legislators the real fight over the issue is about to begin.

Gregory Lipper, a senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the Wall Street Journal that it’s an “extremely dangerous law” that would open the door to constitutional violations.

“It could be read to allow public school teachers, while in the classroom, to reenact the virgin birth, preach the salvation of Christ, or press their students to convert to Christianity — all under the guise of celebrating Christmas,” said Mr. Lipper, whose group generally opposes the government promotion of religion.

Republican state representative Rick Brattin, who wrote the bill, was plain spoken in defense of the veto and said schools are overreacting to threats of First Amendment lawsuits by banning Christmas altogether. He said three of his kids attend an elementary school that prohibited students from throwing a Christmas Party and banned Christmas decoration.

“I’m sorry, it’s a federal holiday,” Brattin said.

Other lawmakers are lining up now against the bill and a fight is rumored to be brewing out of state to take on the law.

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, who argued against the bill’s passage, contends the new Missouri law is “unconstitutional because it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment”.

Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, says the new state law will put schools in a tough position “because they have to follow the Constitution as well as the Missouri statute.”

“If a public school teacher was proselytizing in class, that violates the establishment clause,” says Rothert. “But if that teacher now says this is part of my celebration of Christmas, I have to tell people about Jesus, that’s going to put the Missouri statute and the establishment clause in conflict and present a problem, especially in the schools.”

Rothert says he wouldn’t be surprised if the law winds up being challenged in court. “This is something the ACLU would take on,” he says. “I would say in the Missouri legislature dozens of bills are introduced that would be unconstitutional. Most don’t become law. We are very disappointed this bill became law.”



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Santa Eric

Where were these people, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and ACLU, when schools in California were allowing teachers to teach on Islam and having the students read from the Koran.  Bunch of hypocrites.

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Santa Johnny Boy

Where were these people, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and ACLU, when schools in California were allowing teachers to teach on Islam and having the students read from the Koran.  Bunch of hypocrites.

Seems like nothing is allowed to be said about that.

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SCSanta

If you are interested in some of the motivation for the veto of the original legislation, please find a way to read the actual bill if possible. More Here:  In my opinion, (and the opinion of several legal scholars) it is one of the most poorly written bills passed in a long time, which is why the governor vetoed it. I make no judgement on the purpose or intent behind the bill...it is just that it was so broad and non-specific in its language, that it opens the door for lawsuits and legal challenges from many sides and factions over issues that were not even remotely connected to the original intent of the bill. In my opinion (as one who genuinely supports the freedom to express Merry Christmas and any other appropriate holiday salutations) the original author of the bill should have taken just a little bit of time to change the language to be a little less vague.

 

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SCSanta

Where were these people, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and ACLU, when schools in California were allowing teachers to teach on Islam and having the students read from the Koran.  Bunch of hypocrites.

 

I can't speak for everybody in the ACLU, but I personally know that we are not ALL hypocrites. 

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Santa Forbey

First, the MO legislation says, if the holiday is Christmas, Missouri can't pass a law to force people to call it a "Winter Holiday". 

 

What I find funny is how there is no outcry demanding teachers be available to teah their student on Christmas day, because they don't celebrate Christmas. (They all still take their day off.)  It's like insisting that you are not a secretary and then expecting gifts and time off for Secretary's Day.

 

As for the First Amendment:"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

 

Nothing here says "separation of church & state". Nothing here says a school can't teach about religion. Nothing here says "freedom FROM religion"  The First Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to prevent the new nation from forming a national religion, oppressing any other religion and making it a requirement that everyone belong to the national religion.

 

The religious clause clearly states Congress can't pass legislation prohibiting, forming or preferring any religion; or to pass any legislation stopping anyone from exercising their personal beliefs about religion. 

 

It doesn't say that I can exercise my religious rights and over ride your religious rights. It also DOES NOT say that one's freedon of religion trumps someone else's freedom of speech (or vice versa). 

 

It does say that citizens have the right to peacably assemble (that should include on streets, in homes, AND in SCHOOLS.  The christian youth group has just as much right as the muslim youth group; however, that doesn't give either group the right to disrupt the meetings of the other group(s).

 

Our legislators, educators, jurists, etc. have read way to many restrictions into the very plain language of the First Amendment; usually to the detriment of the many and the advantage of the few.

 

The Marine Corps taught us we have the right to dance around, swinging our arms like maniacs, until such time as our actions encounter someone else's space. The phrase they used was "your rights end, where my nose begins".

 

In the words of Forrest Gump, "Thats all I'm goig to say about that!"

Edited by Santa Forbey
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Santa Stuart Australia

I remember miricle on 34th street and the dollar bill

Was it not

In God We Trust

So how do these people who jump up and down about this pay for everything.

 

Does make you wonder or are they just hypocrites.

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Ricky Claus

What a society

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SCSanta

Excerpted from here: Source

 

Missouri House Bill 278, sponsored by Republican state representative Rick Brattin was simply worded: "Prohibits any state or local governmental entity; public building, park, or school; or public setting or place from banning or restricting the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday." 

 

It has been mentioned that it was the no restriction on the celebration of any federal holiday portion of this bill that caused concerns and prompted the governor to veto it. If you cannot imagine what those concerns might be, might I suggest the possibility of:

 

>Fireworks anywhere, anytime, by anyone with no restrictions to celebrate the 4th of July

>Short staffed public services (Fire, Police, etc.) because workers decide that they must have the entire day off as part of their legal right to celebrate without restrictions.

>Parades at any hour by any number of groups on any route they choose celebrating their holiday.

>Parades, displays, billboards that disparage particular federal holidays.  (Remember...discussing or mentioning are unrestricted too...it doesn't need to support the event)

>I could go on and on...I have a devious mind and this is too easy!

 

Remember...No restrictions on the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday is what the bill proposed, so unless provisions to the contrary are provided for, people could easily argue that existing zoning laws, noise ordinances, parade permit requirements, etc. would be a restriction of someone's celebration of a federal holiday. These arguments might become legal challenges that could clog the courts. Are these extreme and unlikely examples? Perhaps they are...but these are just the type of loopholes that trouble makers use to take advantage and draw a little attention to themselves. In my opinion, the bill should have been re-worded and the governor was being more than prudent when he vetoed it.

 

I will clarify again as I have in my other posts prior to the veto and since the override...I think people should be allowed to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, or any other celebratory salutation. I miss the days of Christmas programs in schools and nativity scenes on town hall lawns. I have a room in my house with those wonderful retro cut out cardboard decorations of Santa Claus and Pilgrims and Snowmen that used to circle the walls and line the halls of elementary school classrooms. I support all of the childlike, innocent sentiment that we remember as kids. BUT...I think the Missouri Bill was very poorly written and needed to be vetoed and reworked.

 

:m2c:

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