House bill would protect ‘national’ holidays

Missouri public schools and governments would be allowed to observe and celebrate “Christmas” and other national holidays without trouble, under a House-passed bill heard Tuesday afternoon by the state Senate’s General Laws Committee.

The bill passed by the House says: “No state or local governmental entity, public building, public park, public school, or public setting or place shall ban or otherwise restrict the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday.”

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, was asked why the bill is needed.

“There are several holidays — with Christmas being, probably, at the forefront — where in your schools and public places they are, outright, banned and can’t even be mentioned,” he explained.

Congress over the years has authorized 10 national holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King’s birthday, Washington’s Birthday (although most Americans call it Presidents’ Day), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Two are seen as having a religious theme — and Christmas is a national observance that’s founded in a specific religion’s holiday.

Over the years, some non-Christians have raised questions about that holiday being observed officially in public schools, where people of other faiths also may be attending.

But none of that was discussed in Tuesday’s hearing — although, when asked about observing other holidays, Brattin told the Senate committee: “All my bill pertains to is federal holidays.

“My intent is our main holidays that we celebrate, as Americans as a whole. Nobody is saying you cannot celebrate (other religious holidays).”

He also reminded committee members: “The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) sends out threatening letters to every school district and municipality, telling them that, if they do (celebrate) these holidays, there will be threat of a lawsuit putting them in court.”

As a result, he said, in many places, “Schools can’t even call it ‘Christmas Break’ anymore — it’s ‘Winter Break.’

“You can’t engage in Christmas carols or anything like that — the whole school is completely banned from expressing that.”

But Brattin told the senators, with a recent poll showing “over 96 percent of Americans who celebrate it — I don’t think that we should have our rights squashed by certain special interest groups sending out threatening lawsuit letters.”

No one testified against Brattin’s proposal.

Kerry Messer, lobbying for the Missouri Family Network, said: “The most common complaint that I get from state agencies that call me is the fact that they’re being prohibited from calling Christmas ‘Christmas’ or Thanksgiving ‘Thanksgiving’ — and I think it’s just a rotten shame.

“So, I would appreciate them having the right to call it what it is.”

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