Georgia Senate Approves Bill Allowing Religious Holiday Displays in Schools

Feb 4, 2014

The Georgia Senate approved a bill that supporters say will ensure schools can recognize “traditional” winter holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah.

The legislation would allow teachers, students and school staff to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy holidays or other give holiday greetings. The legislation would also let schools display religious holiday symbols as long as they’re with another religious symbol or a secular scene.  Republican Senator Bill Jackson says the bill will prevent school systems from getting sued for recognizing holidays like Christmas and will protect religious freedoms.

Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

“I’d hate to know that tomorrow that I would never see another scene somewhere of the manger scene, and I believe this nation will be gone when that happens, and when Chick-fil-A starts opening on Sunday I will know it’s all gone.”

Several Democratic Senators like Nan Orrock say they don’t have  have a problem with the portion of the bill that allows for holiday greetings.

“Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah that is all well and good. That is current law.”

But Orrock argued the part of the bill regarding religious symbols violates the first amendment and will lead to school systems getting sued.

“Do you want to open up the school systems to lawsuits? Do you really want to litigate the first amendment? Is it that you really want religion in our schools? Do you really want our school officials who are public servants and paid by public tax dollars, our school buildings which are built by public tax dollars, do you really want them to get out there and endorse a religion?”

Orrock was challenged by Republican Senator Bill Heath who cited the free exercise of religion clause within the U.S. Constitution.

“The copy I’ve got says Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

After the debate, Senators approved the bill 43 to 8. The bill now moves to the Georgia House.