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State senator wants to make Christmas trees in school legal

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Updated: 12/20/2013 1:01 pm
ATLANTA (WSB-TV) -- A state senator has proposed a new law in Georgia making it legal to have Christmas trees and to say "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Hanukah" in public schools.

Several school districts Channel 2's Jeff Dore talked with were so afraid of being associated with a story about religion and schools, they wanted nothing to do with this story. It's that fear, in part, that is behind this legislation.

It's common to see Christmas lights and "Merry Christmas" signs in Georgia schools.

State senator Mike Dugan wants it clear in Georgia law that that's all legal, while making it clear schools can't push one religion.

"If you're going to do Christmas, which is the most obvious one for where we are, then you also recognize Hanukkah or a secular holiday event going on at the same time," Dugan said.

"It suits me. I would do it anyway. Doesn't matter whether it's a law or not," said resident Larry Wigenton.

"Is it illegal now? [No.] Well then, why would you have to make it legal?" asked resident Andy Scott.

Dore asked Dugan that exact question.

"But a lot of them don't do it because they're afraid they're going to step on somebody's toes or there's going to be legal ramifications brought up if they do do it," Dugan said.

Dore checked with the American Civil Liberties Union, and their attorney, Chad Brock, said there are no legal challenges to teachers saying, "Merry Christmas."

"What we're looking at here is a solution in search of a problem," Brock said.

One drawback the ACLU said is that this bill presents a formula for making religious symbols OK, like including other religions, which might give a false impression that those give some sort of immunity from a federal court challenge.

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