published Monday, February 24th, 2014

Tennessee bill shields school religious displays from suits

NASHVILLE — A proposal that would protect schools from lawsuits for allowing traditional winter celebrations, or religious displays, has passed the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville was unanimously approved 30-0 on Monday.

The legislation says schools can display scenes or symbols associated with such celebrations on school property, if the display includes more than one religion, or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. Messages that encourage adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited.

The proposal also allows students and school staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, such as "Merry Christmas," ''Happy Hanukkah" and "Happy holidays."

Campfield says some groups have threatened to sue over such displays and greetings, and his bill would protect schools.

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