Georgia House says ‘Merry Christmas’ is legal

The House voted 119-52 Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 283, which would let teachers offer traditional holiday greetings and allow schools to create holiday displays as long as at least two traditions are included.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, would allow local school systems to educate students about the history of "traditional winter celebrations" and let students and staff offer "traditional greetings" such as "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Hanukkah."

Displays involving such symbols as a menorah, Christmas tree or Nativity scene would be protected as long as they included more than one religion or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.

Not everyone is sure how clear SB 283 is. The bill doesn’t define what it means by secular symbol. And its line about allowing a display with a secular symbol and one religion have left some, including the Georgia School Boards Association, wondering whether that allows the promotion of a particular religious belief over others.

The House made changes, however, so the bill must go back to the Senate for consideration. The House added much of House Bill 897 to SB 283. The House bill is a major rewrite of the state's elementary and secondary education laws. HB 897 passed the House previously but has not received a vote of the full Senate.