Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines Addresses This Year’s Attacks on Christmas

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A poster of a Peanuts character with a Bible verse, a cross on a town Christmas tree and even the word “holiday” are among the latest battlegrounds in the so-called war against Christmas.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines told Baptist Press this year’s flurry of attacks on public expressions of Christmas highlight the need to safeguard religious liberty.

“Christians are not the only people in America,” said Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. “But we should have the same rights as everyone else,” including the right to “emphasize Christ” in “the public arena.”

Christmas, Gaines noted, “is about Jesus Christ. And I can’t even imagine the pushback many people would have if people tried to come against Islamic holy days like Ramadan or Jewish holy days.”

Linus’ verse banned

In central Texas, a middle school principal ordered a nurse’s aide to remove the text of Luke 2:11 from a handmade poster of the blanket-toting Peanuts character Linus. The verse is part of a passage Linus famously recites in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

The Killeen (Texas) Independent School District voted to support the principal’s action Dec. 13, according to KWTX television in Waco, Texas.

District officials said in a statement earlier in December that “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 conservative legal organization Texas Values filed a lawsuit Dec. 15 on behalf of the nurse’s aide, Dedra Shannon of Charles Patterson Middle School. That same day, a Bell County state district judge issued a temporary injunction granting Shannon permission to display the poster as long as it included the words “Ms. Shannon’s Christmas Message” in letters as large as those of the Bible verse.

Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values and legal counsel for Shannon, said in a statement, “Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a court victory for religious freedom in December. Ms. Shannon is a brave and faithful woman that we are honored to represent.”

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton intervened in the case Dec. 15, filing a motion seeking the temporary injunction. He also sent a letter to the school district Dec. 13, arguing that fears the poster violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause “stem from an incorrect reading of the law.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach