KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) Killeen ISD officials Friday defended the decision to remove a portion of six-foot-tall door decoration in hallway at Patterson Middle School that included a reference to a Bible verse despite a call from the state’s attorney general to “reverse their unlawful decision.”
“Our employees are free to celebrate the Christmas and holiday season in the manner of their choosing. However, employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students,” the district said in a statement Friday, a day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the display was protected by the Merry Christmas law the Legislature passed in 2013.
“We passed that law precisely because of this type of discrimination against people of faith,” Paxton said in the statement.
“No school official in Texas can silence a Biblical reference to Christmas. This is an attack on religious liberty and a violation of the First Amendment and state law. I am calling on the school board of the Killeen ISD to immediately reverse their unlawful decision,” he said.
The Biblical reference in the door decoration was included as part of a scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in which the character Linus recites the annunciation to the shepherds from the Gospel of Luke.
“Upon review, it is clear that this display was not in keeping with the
Merry Christmas Bill (House Bill 308), which requires that a display not encourage adherence to a particular religion,” the KISD said Friday.
One section of the law reads: "A display relating to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief."
The conservative group Texas Values said the decoration was placed on the door on Monday and that the school’s principal told the staffer responsible for it two days later that the drawing of Linus could remain, but that the Biblical quote needed to be removed.