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School Under Fire for Nixing Charlie Brown Display

Texas woman says takedown of holiday decor infringes on her religious freedom
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2016 8:58 AM CST
School Under Fire for Nixing Charlie Brown Display
In this file image, Charlie Brown and Linus appear in a scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas."   (AP Photo/ABC, 1965 United Feature Syndicate Inc., File)

Dedra Shannon may have to settle for cranking up Vince Guaraldi tunes to get into the holiday spirit at her workplace. The principal at Charles Patterson Middle School in Killeen, Texas, made Shannon, a nurse's aide, take down the Charlie Brown-inspired decor she'd put up on the nurse's office door, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The display showed the character Linus, along with: "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." Shannon calls the move "discriminatory," and the state's attorney general calls it a violation of her First Amendment rights. The school, however, cites HB 308, a 2013 law also known as the "Merry Christmas Bill," which dictates how schools may celebrate the holidays.

Per the bill, seasonal displays are permitted as long as they include the depiction of more than one religion (or one religion plus a "secular scene or symbol"), and as long as the display doesn't "[encourage] adherence to a particular religious belief." "Employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students," the Killeen school district noted in a statement. Texas AG Ken Paxton—who thinks HB 308 actually protects Shannon—calls the teardown an "attack on religious liberty." The president of Texas Values, the nonprofit religious advocacy group advising Shannon, had this to say: "It's amazing that even a quote from [A Charlie Brown Christmas] is not even safe for some overzealous or misguided government officials." (This Christmas display is driving a New York lawyer batty.)

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