Senate Bill 326 would create guidelines so educators can feel more comfortable honoring Christmastime traditions, such as this Christmas concert at Franklin Township Middle School West. / Matt Kryger, The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS -- A bill intended to protect and defend the Christmas spirit in Indiana classrooms passed its first test Wednesday at a committee hearing at the Statehouse and now heads to the full Senate.
Senate Bill 326 would add language to the state code specifically allowing teachers to say "Happy Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah," "Happy Holidays" and "other seasonal greetings."
It would also allow schools to display "symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah, Christmas tree, Nativity scene or other religious symbol associated with traditional winter celebrations," if more than one religion is featured or if there is also a secular symbol displayed.
The bill also calls for the Indiana Department of Education to develop ways schools can introduce Christmas and other winter holidays into classroom instruction and displays.
The bill's author, Republican sate Sen. Jim Smith, said the legislation would create guidelines so educators can feel more comfortable honoring Christmastime traditions.
"Christmas has been extinguished from our classrooms, and it's to the detriment of our children," Smith told The Indianapolis Star.
The legislation could raise constitutional questions, however.
Last year, a federal judge stopped the city of Evansville from issuing permits for plastic crosses that would be displayed on public property because it would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment that prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion or national church.
Smith's bill passed 7-1 in committee. It heads to the full Senate next.
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