New Missouri Law Protects Christmas Celebrations in Parks, Schools
If you love Christmas and want to go all out this holiday -- lights, stockings, nativity scenes, carols, the works -- this is your year. A new Missouri law says no one, not even the government, can restrict your celebration in any public space.
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Folks can practice, mention, celebrate or discuss any federal holiday in any public park, school or place, according to Statute 9.015, passed last month when the state house voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of the bill. (More on that after the jump.) There are 10 federal holidays, including Columbus Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Christmas Day is the only holiday associated with a religion.
Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, says that while the 32-word law covers all ten federal holidays, "It's really just about one holiday: Christmas."
"I think that we all knew that the real, underlying reason for this bill is that there is a small group of people who want to ensure Christmas displays are allowed in any public place, regardless of the people of that community or school," Schupp says.
Schupp, who is Jewish, said the law was exclusionary under the pretense of being an inclusive new protection. "Jewish holidays are not protected in the same way. Muslim holidays are not protected in the same way. People who do not celebrate a religion have no protections for their freedom from religion.
"This is a law based on ideology, and I don't think ideology is a good way to legislate," Schupp says.
The law will likely be challenged in a state court against the first ten words of the First Amendment, known as the Establishment Clause, which prohibit the government from establishing or favoring one particular religion.
The law's reach goes beyond Christmas. Governor Jay Nixon, who vetoed the bill in July, said he feared a Missouri resident could cite the new law when shooting off Fourth of July fireworks during dry summers when fireworks are prohibited.
"As a result, local governments would be hampered in their efforts to enforce existing fireworks ordinances around July 4th. More troubling, House Bill No. 278 would greatly frustrate a ban on fireworks imposed during a period of severe fire risk," Nixon said.
The law 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."