BELTON, Texas – A Texas judge ruled Thursday that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” poster that quoted the Bible can go back up on a school employee’s office door after a principal forced her to remove it.
Bell County Judge Jack Jones issued a restraining order against the Killeen Independent School District that prohibits officials at Patterson Middle School from removing a poster on nurse aide Dedra Shannon’s office door, the Killeen Daily Herald reports.
Shannon wanted students to know the true meaning of Christmas, so she decorated her office door with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” theme. The decorations featuring Brown’s buddy Linus van Pelt reciting the Bible from the pivotal scene in the cherished holiday special, alongside a scrawny Christmas tree.
“For unto you is born this day in the City of David a savior which is Christ the Lord,” the quote read. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Two days after the decorations went up, the school’s principal ordered Shannon to remove the poster because the school’s environment of acceptance and tolerance doesn’t tolerate any religious references.
“She said, ‘please don’t hate me, but unfortunately you’re going to have to take your poster down,” Shannon told Fox News. “She said the poster had to come down because it might offend kids from other religions or those who do not have a religion.”
Shannon was told Linus and the tree could stay, but the Bible quote was over the line.
“I just took the entire thing down,” Shannon said. “I wasn’t going to leave Linus and the Christmas tree without having the dialogue. That’s the whole point of why it was put up.”
District officials and the Killeen school board backed the principal’s demand to remove the poster, and news coverage of the situation prompted intervention by Texas Values, a religious liberty group, as well as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Texas Values attorney Jonathan Saenz warned the school board on Tuesday to “allow the Charlie Brown poster to go up” or “we will be forced to take other action,” but board members voted 6-1 to support the principal nonetheless.
Saenz described the decision as “an attack on religious liberty.”
“The KISD school board has gone rogue and is now in a very dangerous place,” he said after the vote.
In court on Thursday, Saenz told Judge Jones that Shannon decorated her door at the behest of the KISD, which sent a notice to employees encouraging them to celebrate the holiday season.
“I don’t think she was an outlier in putting something on her door,” he said. “When employees are given a manner to express themselves, that is a forum.”
Jones agreed, and ruled school officials cannot prevent Shannon from displaying her Charlie Brown poster, though he did require the nurse’s aide to include the text “Ms. Shannon’s Christmas message” in lettering at least as big as Bible quote.
Paxton also filed a separate lawsuit against KISD on Thursday, arguing the principal’s demand violates Texas’ “Merry Christmas law,” which states schools cannot “silence a biblical reference to Christmas,” the Daily Herald reports.
KISD officials told the news site they will respect Jones’ ruling and expect the Charlie Brown poster will be back up some time Friday.
“We believe that directing the individual to include the additional text better complies with state and federal law,” according to the district’s prepared statement. “We support this decision.”
Shannon and Texas Values, of course, celebrated Jones’ ruling.
“Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a court victory for religious freedom in December in public schools,” Saenz said. “Ms. Shannon is a brave and faithful woman that we are honored to represent. This scenario is exactly why the Merry Christmas law was written – to protect teachers, staff and their expression of the Christmas season.”