Just in Time for Christmas, Infamous Candy Cane Case Appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court

December 22, 2011

Liberty Institute released the following press release today:

Plano, Texas, December 22, 2011—Today, days before Christmas, Liberty Institute filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in Morgan v. Swanson, (known nationwide as the “candy cane” case), asking the Court to hold government officials accountable for violating students’ First Amendment rights. Liberty Institute filed the petition on behalf of Plano ISD students who, during Christmas 2003, were banned by school officials from distributing candy cane pens, pencils and other gifts containing religious messages to classmates during non-curricular activities and after school—a clear violation of their constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

“Every school official knows that engaging in religious viewpoint discrimination against students is unconstitutional,” said Kelly Shackelford, Esq., president/CEO of Liberty Institute. “Saying that school officials can engage in such religious discrimination without any responsibility is not the law and would send exactly the wrong message to millions of school children and their families.”

The petition asks The Supreme Court to review a deeply divided en banc decision of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which narrowly granted two school officials, Lynn Swanson, Principal of Thomas Elementary School, and Jackie Bombchill, Principal of Rasor Elementary School, qualified immunity, despite numerous constitutional violations. While recognizing that the school officials violated the Constitution, a majority of the court determined that the law, however, was not clearly established enough to hold them responsible. In July 2010, a unanimous panel of the Fifth Circuit denied the school officials qualified immunity recognizing that the law prohibiting viewpoint discrimination is clearly established and also rejected the school officials’ argument that elementary school students have no First Amendment rights.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who will argue the “Obamacare” lawsuit in the Supreme Court in March, serves as co-counsel with Liberty Institute and argued the case alongside former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr at the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in September. Clement also co-wrote the petition for review to The Supreme Court.

After eight years in litigation, the candy cane case has come to symbolize what many call “the war on Christmas.” Since 2003, the case has affected change throughout the nation, reshaping school district policies, influencing changes to state law, evoking questions about religious expression in schools and forcing the examination of student’s First Amendment rights. By taking the case, the U.S. Supreme Court would likely clarify the law nationwide, which affects over 40 million students.

Liberty Institute is a non-profit legal firm that works to restore and defend religious freedoms in schools, churches and the public arena. Visit www.LibertyInstitute.org or www.CandyCaneCase.com for more information.

Texans Rally in Athens, Say “Don’t Mess with Christmas”

December 21, 2011

Athens_Tx_Nativity_Rally_Henderson_CountyThis past Saturday, an estimated 5,000 Texans rallied to support the Nativity Scene at the Henderson County Courthouse in Athens, Tx. The Wisconsin based Freedom From Religion Foundation, who has a history of attacking religious freedom around the country, had sent a letter to county officials stating that the religious display on the courthouse lawn should be removed from county property.  On Saturday, with law and history on their side, 5,000 Texans stood for true religious freedom and sent the clear message: “Don’t Mess with Christmas in Texas.”

The rally was filled with moving music and speech as Pastors from all around the area united in support of the Nativity scene.  Pastor Nathan Lorick of  First Baptist Church of Malakoff, encouraged the crowd to no longer stand as the silent majority and challenged everyone to recognize that “the truth of the Bible was not a mere afterthought but instead a foundational basis on which we live.”

Please check out some great pictures and video from the rally below:

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*Special thanks to our local conservative and tea party friends for proving the pictures and video


War on Christmas comes to Henderson County

December 16, 2011

Athens_Tx_Nativity_Henderson_CountyIf Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because they are the same atheist group currently behind the attacks on the Tenth Mountain Division’s Big Mountain Jesus statue in Whitefish, Montana, the veterans memorial, that Liberty Institute is defending. They are also the same group that earlier this year filed suit against Governor Perry and the Houston Prayer rally and lost.  It seems FFRF is also investing much of their energy into waging war on Christmas, with the latest attack taking place in Athens, Texas in Henderson County.

In Henderson County, FFRF sent a demand letter to county officials demanding that they remove a nativity scence from the courthouse square. The County correctly responded to FFRF that the nativity scene was constitutional under established U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  The group also made known their plans to post a sign reading “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, LET REASON PREVAIL.” The banner goes on to state that religion is a “myth and superstition.” Fortunately, local pastors and Christians are taking a stand against the false claims by FFRF and will be holding a rally at the courthouse this Saturday, December 17, 2011.

Pastor Nathan Lorick of First Baptist Church in Malakoff, a neighboring town to Athens stated in a recent article that “The point that I’m standing on is that we are seeing persecution on Christianity on the rise in America and I think there’s some great examples of that even recently, one being what we are going through,” he said. “Christianity for far too long has been the silent majority. We need to stand up and speak up in love, but with conviction. We believe enough in our God and we believe enough in our faith that we need to take a stand for what we believe in.”

Pastor Lorick, who will be officiating the rally on Saturday, really hit the nail on the head.  As we have seen with our stand on the “Under God” license plate, unless Christians stand up for their rights, the left will continue to try to chip away at our religious freedom piece by piece.  We applaud the folks from Henderson County and from across the state that will be standing up for religious freedom this Saturday.

Update: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has put out a statement offering support to the Henderson County Judge over the challenge to the Courthouse Nativity Scene.  See the statement here.

KXAN story on Fort Worth ISD Santa Ban

December 6, 2011

As we reported last week here, the Fort Worth ISD has gotten itself in a sticky situation with it’s apparent ban on Santa and gift exchanges in its classrooms.  Liberty Institute talked with KXAN about this story late last week.  You can see KXAN’s news video on the story below and read their story here:

While the left loves to argue that there is no War on Christmas, it is clear that governments, at all levels and in misguided efforts to be politically correct, are increasingly trying to trample on the First Amendments rights of citizens and students.

Santa/Christmas Ban In Texas School District? FWST Says So, Then ISD “Clarifies” Its Position

December 2, 2011

The Fort Worth Star Telegram posted a story this morning about an apparent (click here) ban on Santa and gift exchanges in the Fort Worth I.S.D. public schools.

It’s sad that a government spokesperson for FWISD has to make it clear that it’s okay for school students to say “Merry Christmas” to each other during the school day.  But of course the left wants you to believe there is no War on Christmas.

The Forth Worth ISD quickly reversed…I mean “clarified” itself shortly thereafter the fire storm of parent outcry and the homepage article started buzzing around.  Here’s the FWISD statement.

FWISD says they have no ban on Santa Claus or Christmas and that gift exchanges are allowed at school, just not during instructional time.

Update: I was just interviewed on the new attacks on Christmas. Look for story at 6 pm tonight on KXAN in Austin.

Social Studies Summary/Votes Today-Live Blogging

January 14, 2010


10:45 p.m.- hearing concludes at end of 8th grade.  Rest of Social Studies will be taken up tomorrow.  And we’ll be here.

10:33 p.m. – SBOE Member Dunbar gets right to work: John Locke, William Blackstone added to Grade 8.

10:15 p.m. Wealth of Nations book, added.

9:58 p.m. SBOE Member Cynthia Dunbar is now in the room.  She appears to have had a schedule conflict over the past two days.

9:10 – Grade 6. Terri Leo brings amendment to go back to original list of holidays: Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah.  Would mean Vaisakhi and the annual hajj.  Amendment fails.

New list of holidays.  Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hoshanah, Vaisakhi, Diwali, and the annual hajj.

8:58 p.m. SBOE meeting is back on.  Up to be added-“understand the importance of morality and ethics in maintaining a functional  free enterprise system”  7 Vote for, looks like mostly Republicans.  It passes.  Mavis Knight votes against it.  Bob Craig doesn’t vote.  Is this a controversial statement?  Come on, where’s the leadership

7:17 p.m. Describe the significance of the Second Great Awakening.  SBOE Member Cargill brings the motion.  Voted down.

6:50 p.m. – Grade 5, Discussion over Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Paine, Sons of Liberty sought to be added.  Motivations of Founding Fathers. Approved. Thomas Paine doesn’t make the cut, but he’s still in Grade 8.

5:54 p.m. Justice Raul A. Gonzalez is added to Grade 4.

See below for our part in the America is Exceptional Press Conference yesterday.

5:38 p.m. Grade 3.  Agosto asks to put Henry Cisneros back (he was removed by writing teams).  Hardy objects to him, his role as HUD director led to housing debacle, according to her.  Amendment fails, Cisneros stays out.

5:27 p.m. Sam Walton is added in grade 3, section 8(C).  Milton Hershey also added.

5:14 p.m. James A. Lovell, pilot of Apollo 13, added by SBOE Member Mercer, others.  And Juliet Gordon Lowe.  Ellen Ochoa, first Hispanic astronaut, added.

5:02 p.m. “The Four Chaplains” added. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Chaplains  

Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, the Jewish Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, the Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington and the Reformed Church in America Reverend Clark V. Poling

4:45 p.m. Paul Revere goes back in, he was taken out. American love of individualism, inventiveness, and freedom is in.  W.E. DuBois is in.

4:22 p.m. SBOE Member Mercer-add Nathan Hale to grade 1.  Passes. Hardy objects.

3:50 p.m. Social Studies debate and vote has started.  Columbus getting some love, and John Smith.  Added to Kindergarten grade, barely.  SBOE Members, Nunez, Berlanga, Allen, and Knight voted against, at least.  Couldn’t see the other hands against.

Jose Antonio Navarro also gets added to Kindergarten, with no objections.

Richard Alleen added to Grade 1, no objections.

SBOE Member Pat Hardy wants to strike the words “holding public officials to their word.”  SBOE Member Bob Craig is also against this phrase.  Reminds me of when he made rude comments about the 10,000 plus people that called on SBOE members to prevent censorship in the Science classrooms.

SBOE Member Allen opposes the phrase. SBOE Member Miller supports the phrase.

Phrase passes.

3:25 p.m.  Social Studies debate and Vote about to begin.


Democratic Republic is how our government will be described.

Grades 3-12, Celebrate Freedom Week information will be the same in all grades.

Specific Reading selections are removed from all grades, not just some.

We’ll be providing live blog updates for the State Board of Education meeting today when they vote on important Social Studies issues. 


2:45 p.m. SBOE is still not on the Social Studies issue.  Stay tuned!

1:05- SBOE is still on another issue.  Should get to Social Studies soon.

11:05 a.m. The SBOE is taking up other unrelated issues at this point, but should get to the Social Studies issue soon!

For now, check out some coverage from yesterday! http://www.onenewsnow.com/Legal/Default.aspx?id=852762 


Have you signed our Christmas petition?  There’s still time!  www.christmastextbooks.com


Mary Kay Ash in one place as she is mentioned more often than Christopher Columbus. 

●          Mary Kay-Grade 3, page 23 of Social Studies (remove), U.S. History, page 10

●          Christopher Columbus-Grade 3, page 21.

 Columbus needs to be added back in one section.

● Christopher Columbus has been removed(needs to be put back): Grade 4, page 30;

● Columbus Day does remain: Grade 5, page 45.

●          Return of Significant Figures Such as Neil Armstrong and George Patton Should Remain.

●          Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein should be put back in. Removed from World History,   

            section 26(c).

●          USSR reference as “expansionism” should be changed back to “aggression.” U.S. History 7(A):

●          U.S. “expansion” has been changed to “imperialism”.  It should be changed back to “expansionism”. U.S. History section 3(A).

*          Neil Armstrong and George Patton should stay in (they were taken out in 2009, but put back in after public outcry). Grade 5, section 23(A)http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/curriculum/pdf/ElementaryTEKSOct2009.pdf

& U.S. History 6(E) http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/curriculum/pdf/USHistoryTEKSOct2009.pdf

*  Keep Christmas in list of holidays.  (was taken out by appointed committee in July 2009 draft, but put back in by appointed committee, not SBOE, after public outcry.

* While Christmas has been attacked and taken out at one point, Diwali, Vaisakhi, and the annual hajj were added. Grade 6, 19(B), http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/curriculum/pdf/MSTEKSOct2009.pdf

Christmas & Social Studies Vote Next Week! Sign the Petition & Act Now!

January 5, 2010

Click here for an update on this issuehttps://texaslegislativeupdate.wordpress.com/

Sign the “Keep Christmas” Petition. http://www.christmastextbooks.com/

Will Christmas stay or go? Will the Founding Fathers be given the respect they deserve? Will Columbus be buried in a lone corner of the curriculum? Will the effort to remove Veterans Day be stopped once and for all.  Will teaching about our state and national religious heritage be changed?  And much more!

Just a few questions that could receive more clear answers next week at the State Board of Education hearing & VOTE on all of the statewide Social Studies curriculum for K-12, next Wednesday.  This hearing and VOTE will affect every public school student.

SIGN OUR PETITION!!!  (Click link for petition) http://www.christmastextbooks.com/  Don’t Mess With Christmas in Texas!!

We will deliver the petition results and numbers to the SBOE members next week. 

After months of discussion……………..THE SBOE WILL VOTE ON THESE ISSUES NEXT WEEK!!

We need educators (former and current) and parents, and others to come testify with us at the hearing!

This Friday from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., you can call  512-463-9581  or fax: 512-936-4319 to have your name on the testimony list for the Wednesday, January 13th hearing at the TEA building, here in Austin.

You want to testify on Item #6 for next Wednesday. http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=7691

If you plan to testify and/or attend, please let us know so we can be of help to you.  email us at legislative@freemarket.org

If you cannot come to testify, please call your State Board of Education member and let them know your concern for the future of Social Studies curriculum in Texas. Tell them to keep Christmas, respect the Founding Fathers and preserve our religious heritage in Social Studies classes.  Click here for contact information. https://texaslegislativeupdate.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/texas-state-board-of-education-contact-information/

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