Texas Atheist Aron Ra Is Deeply Irritated by Houston Rep's "Merry Christmas" Bill

Aron Ra portrait by Mark Graham.jpg
Photo by Mark Graham
Aron Ra
This upcoming legislative session is shaping up to be a real barn-burner. In addition to the anti-TSA groping measure and the continued battle against the imaginary scourge of Sharia law already filed by other legislators, Representative Dwayne Bohac of Houston has made things even more lively. A couple weeks back, he filed a new bill that would enable school district employees to use "traditional winter greetings" on campus, i.e. "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Hanukkah." (Mainly the first one, we suspect.)

Bohac announced what he's termed his "Merry Christmas" bill on December 20; you can take a look at the full text right here. It says a school district "may educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations," allow students and staff to utter the aforementioned greetings, and permit on school property "scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations," including nativity scenes or Christmas trees.

There is one catch: The displays would have to include more than one religion, or else one religion and "at least one secular scene or symbol." A message is prohibited if it "encourages adherence to a particular religious belief."

In the press release announcing the bill, Bohac explains that the whole thing began after his first-grade son came home from school last year and reported that he'd decorated a "holiday tree" in class. Bohac continues:

When I asked what a holiday tree was, he told me it was the same as a Christmas tree. After inquiring with school officials as to why the term "Holiday Tree" was being used, it became apparent that the school was fearful of litigation. It was that moment that inspired me to file legislation that would provide students, parents, teachers and administrators a safe harbor for openly celebrating a Federal holiday."

Over on Bohac's Facebook page, much of the initial reaction was quite positive. "Thank you for standing up for our freedom and our children's rights to talk about Jesus publicly," one constituent writes. "If more politicians would stand for what is right the way you have, our country would not be in a mess the way that it is right now. Thank you for your heart for God and for this country."

But Aron Ra, Texas director of the American Atheists, has a few small concerns, as you might expect.

"He wants teachers to randomly be able to proselytize their religious beliefs by being able to put up religious displays in their classrooms, unrestricted, without any fear of litigation." Ra told us today. "But what happens when it's not a Christian that's doing it?
What happens when it's a pagan trying to do solstice or Saturnalia? They're using the same damn tree and they can cite where it came from."

Ra, who's also hosts a popular YouTube show and a widely read blog, outlined his concerns with the bill on the blog recently. He doesn't quite buy that the bill would promote a healthy mix of "winter greetings" or wouldn't amount to religious endorsement.

"The problem is that it would marginalize non-Christian students even more than they already are," he writes. Moreover, he argues, "It also forces teachers to reveal what may in many cases be privately held beliefs which should not be scrutinized by principals, pupils, or the PTA."

"My wife is a teacher," he said today. "And she's an atheist teacher. She knows full well you do not divulge what you do not believe, because they will use it against you. When you don't cower to the line -- she has a coworker that's always saying Bible things or God references. Then she sits there and waits for the pregnant pause, or for you to endorse what she's saying. If you don't, then you're cast as the enemy."

Ra also argues that the legislation fails the "Lemon Test," which details the requirements for any legislation concerning religion, writing:

It has no secular legislative purpose. It will not only advance the already dominant religion in this country, but will also invariably inhibit less-popular faiths, and it will certainly result in "excessive government entanglement" with religion. It's not like Muslim teachers will be welcome promoting Ramadan in the classroom. Wiccan teachers will only attract criticism by celebrating Yule or Saturnalia with all the traditional symbols which were originally pagan -- including the manger scene (thank you, Horus), and which were later appropriated by Christianity. In other words, it was never a Christmas tree to begin with, and there is no defensible reason to back this bill.

All this arguing sounds rather familiar, doesn't it? But will the course of this bill resemble that of the infamous Plano "Jesus Is the Reason For the Season" candy cane case? Or might it look like the "Kountze cheerleaders can carry Bible verses if they damn well please" incident? And do kids in Texas public schools have anything better to do than listen to the adults around them bicker about religion? Probably not, right?



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23 comments
MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

Are schools just being over sensitive to potential litigation that never occurs? Only a bonehead principal or someone else in administration (education managers as a group have to be the absolute worst) would worry about a teach getting sued for saying Merry Christmas. These stories are really about bureaucracies making policies that just create problems.

Additionally, is not the real real response that Christmas in America has almost nothing to do with Christ. It is about commerce, drinking, travel, and ridiculous consumption often fueled by debt. Consequently having a Christmas tree, giving presents, and having a Christmas party has nothing to do with Christianity. Teachers, principals, and even Mr. Re can be safe in the knowledge while we do not what is being promoted, it sure is not religion.

roo_ster
roo_ster

The first problem is that we have gov't schools.  Get rid of them and the problem solves itself.

But, assuming we have gov't schools, this legicritter is merely trying to remedy the current situation brought about by worthless sacks like Mr. Ra and his fellow anti-Christian proselytizers.  Keep such anti-Christian losers reined in and the Ledge won't have to remedy their hateful malpractice.

desertphile
desertphile

So if I understand correctly, more than one million Americans live on the nation's streets, under bridges, in town and city parks; in several regions in the USA the drinking water has been poisoned; in a great many regions in the USA the air is not fit to breathe; thousands of Americans die every year from starvation, suicide, tobacco induced cancers and illnesses, alcohol-related car crashes, and from living too closely to coal-fired power plants...... and rep. Bohac has much more important things to worry about---- such as telling students they may say "Merry Saturnalia!" in class if they wish.


And some people still ask me "What the heck happened to Texas?!"

GetaLife
GetaLife

Ironic.

The Grand Poobah of the local Order of People Who Don’t Believe in God But Can’t Help Talking about God is named after Moses’ priestly brother and the Ancient Egyptian Sun God.

And this guy named after both a Jewish hero of the Old Testament AND a mythical Egyptian god is arguing that are children should have absolutely, positively no exposure to religion. None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

The indisputable fact is that the United States of America is largely made up of people who identify themselves as Christian or Jew. And, being a Western Civilization, our culture is highly Judeo-Christian. Our art, poetry, literature, and TV shows are saturated in allusions to the Judeo-Christian religion. Even if Atheists are correct and these religions are nothing more than myths, our kids’ education would be severely stunted if they lacked any knowledge of these religions. It would be the same as if we prevented them from knowing the mythological stories of our Founding Fathers – i.e. Ben Franklin with a key on a kite or George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.

Aron Ra and the rest of his ilk are misguided in their opposition to a limited, reasonable legislation such as this.

John1073
John1073

The religious facists will always try to promote their silliness. Just ignore them and continue on saying Festive Kwanzaa. That really irritates them.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I will never understand why people feel the need to bitch about religion. Jesus? Abraham? Mohammed? Vishnu? Buddha? Nothing? I don't give a damn what you worship, have fun with it. Just do it and leave the rest of us alone.

The term 'holiday tree' (which i think is silly) exists solely BECAUSE these people feel the need to tell everyone about their religion and how right they think they are.

Be a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu, an Atheist, or an Agnostic. Hell, be a Deist. None of us care, just do your thing and leave the rest of us alone.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Notice there has been a few little weaponized Johnnys having a bad hair day and cutting loose on school children in the gun free zones?  No respect for themselves, no respect for others, all videoed up and dressed to kill.  No daddy.  No wonder.

The kids these days, they sure grow up fast, don't they?

I'm not a religious guy by any stretch and I don't like being told what to do, but in retrospect saying a prayer and the pledge of allegiance, and the application of corporal punishment immediately at the point of the infraction . . . probably didn't hurt.

At least we didn't need armed guards in 2nd grade.  What changed?

We did.

keepcensoringDO
keepcensoringDO

Booo fucking hooo big baby's pussy is irritated 

Take a midol, retard.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@GetaLife 

Ironic. I don't think that word means what you think it means.


Also, nobody is saying that children shouldn't be educated about Christianity, or for that matter, religion in general. In my opinion, all children should learn about world religions and ancient religions in the course of their schooling. This, however, would be strongly opposed by most Christians, I suspect.


God forbid they might learn something that is at odds with their Christian indoctrination.

NeonRat
NeonRat

@GetaLife You assume a lot about someone you know nothing of... 

By the way, the term "Judeo-christian" is consider rather insulting by Jews.


sheik_mo
sheik_mo

@SuperfuzzBigmuff "I don't understand" - Religion permeates our culture, shows up on our doorsteps with literature, scriptures and threats of eternal damnation, influences our science books, contaminates our political systems, indoctrinates our children and postulates that its doctrine must be followed, lest we be destroyed in body, in soul, or both. Non-believers are simply responding to the avalanche of religious messages that bears down upon us daily.

Religion gets carte blanche to be as vocal as it wants, to knock on our doors and accost us in our homes, in our places of work, in our personal and professional lives. Believers are charged with a life mission to preach, teach, disciple, shout it from the mountaintops and to "go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Religion...is everywhere.

Ask yourself. When's the last time an atheist rang your doorbell with the Good News of Humanism? How often do you find Richard Dawkins books in the dresser drawers of your hotel rooms? When was the last atheist temple erected in your neighborhood? Have you ever attended an atheist revival? Has atheism demanded 10% of your household income? How many dedicated atheist television channels come through your satellite dish? How many atheist verses were you instructed to memorize as a child? When's the last time someone thanked a FARMER (or even the cook) at the dinner table instead of God?

On a more radical front, what's the name of the last atheist who sawed the head off of an "infidel?" Or sentenced a shrouded woman to death for displeasing an oppressive husband? Or strapped explosives to his belt in order to kill hundreds in a public square? Or publicly hung a gay person for his lifestyle?

It's everywhere. Religion is a pounding drum that has gone mostly unanswered for a long, long time. And religion is not satisfied with merely existing quietly in the homes and hearts of the faithful. Its very nature compels the believer to proselytize, preach, promote, convince, convert and prevail. If you play on the team of the religious, your game plan is to stay, always, on offense.

Throughout our history, those who raise a simple hand of protest against these advances have been portrayed as the real problem. Religion has attempted to marginalize and defeat legitimate questions and concerns by indignantly portraying any resistors as misguided, immoral, rudderless, angry, miserable, lost and alone.

And when skepticism challenges wildly improbable (or impossible) stories found in the bible, the Qur'an and other holy books, the religious wail, "Why can't you just leave us alone?"

The irony is thick.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@SuperfuzzBigmuff 

If and when the day comes that religious folks don't feel the need to proselytize or promote their particular flavor of religiosity in the public square, I will be the first person to start leaving them alone to lead their own superstitious lives in private.


Until then, they're gonna get pushed around just as they have pushed others around. Give and you shall receive. Amiright?

samacq
samacq

@TheCredibleHulk @roo_ster

Verb

  1. Convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.
your right it does not fit.


in·doc·tri·nate  /inˈdäktrəˌnāt/Verb: Teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically: "broadcasting was a vehicle for indoctrinating the masses".


I find the latter more accurate.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@roo_ster @TheCredibleHulk 

LOL. I know you're just playing your little "atheisim as doctrine" game, roo, but words have meanings.

Proselytize for their lack of faith. Think about it.

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