If it's true that "everything is bigger in Texas," then a battle over a Bible verse in a school hallway may be the biggest war on Christmas this year.
UPDATE (12/16/2016): A Texas judge has ordered KISD to restore the decoration that included a biblical verse recited by Linus in the 1960s TV special "A Charlie Brown Christmas." (Details)
UPDATE (12/15/2016): Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened Wednesday into a lawsuit against the Killeen Independent School District over its decision to take down Dedra Shannon's door decoration. "Once again, public schools have decided that their commitment to diversity does not extend to Christians," the AG said. "Killeen ISD made a clear legal error when it decided it had to censor [Shannon's] Christmas decoration simply because it incorporated some religious terminology." (Original story follows)
The Yuletide drama is unfolding in Killeen, where the school board voted 6-1 Tuesday to keep a Christmas-themed decoration from a classroom door. That lopsided vote backed a school principal who had confronted staff member Dedra Shannon on Dec. 7 about her poster of Peanuts character Linus quoting from the Book of Luke.
Linus famously quoted the New Testament passage in the 1965 "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and Shannon depicted a waving Linus, the Bible verse, and the scrawny Christmas tree on the door.
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown," the poster reads (see below).
Faced with changing the decoration or removing it, Shannon took it down.
The story gained national attention when it reached Fox News Radio correspondent Todd Starnes. He first wrote about Shannon's situation last week, then followed up with a second story noting that Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, had gotten involved.
Paxton contacted the Killeen Independent School District to inform it that a "Merry Christmas" law, passed in 2013, protects religious-themed expressions during the Christmas season.
But that assurance didn't sway the school board, where the lone vote to put the poster back up was cast by school board President Terry Delano.
"I believe that we have come to a place in our nation," he commented, "where we're taking Christ out of everything, in this case, the very word Christmas – Christ-mas. And it concerns me that someday we won't be able to say that."
Other school board members pointed to a portion of the "Merry Christmas" law that forbids "a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief," a TV news station, KWTX, reported.
"No one is 'imposing' their beliefs on anyone simply by decorating a door, any more than someone who decorates their house with a Nativity scene and a Bible verse is 'imposing' their beliefs on their neighbors," Jonathan Saenz, an attorney representing Shannon, wrote to the school district.
"The idea that children walking by this woman's office will spontaneously convert to the Christian faith by looking at Linus and that scrawny Christmas tree is absurd," Starnes tells OneNewsNow.
He places the blame on atheist groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and similar organizations that claim violations of the Establishment Clause and threaten public school districts with costly lawsuits.
Although the school board and Paxton are debating "adherence" and religious expressions, the 2013 law was passed to protect the holiday itself.
Legislators took action three years ago after a public school PTA planned a "winter party" that excluded the words "Merry Christmas," Christmas trees, and the colors green and white.
A legislator who backed the bill said his child's school had erected a "holiday tree."
12/15/2016 - Update added re: Texas AG Ken Paxton joining in lawsuit.
12/16/2016 - Update added re: Judge's order to restore the door decoration.