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How Keeping Christmas In My Childhood School Lifted A Dark Year

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December 20, 2018

I didn’t know why we had a meager houseplant in the place of a Christmas tree. Didn’t everybody have a ‘Christmas plant’?

By: Hiram Sasser, General Counsel with First Liberty Institute

Each year, as fall gives way to winter, unmistakable events and hallmarks signify the beginning of the Christmas season. Family traditions are as varied and diverse as the American population, but whether it’s Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, Santa and his reindeer, a Menorah, or a simple candy cane, decorating the home for the holidays is a meaningful commencement to a joyous time of year.

As general counsel for First Liberty Institute, I have come to expect a slightly different harbinger of the season. At First Liberty, the Christmas season hasn’t truly begun until we get the first call seeking help to defend religious imagery associated with Christmas.

In 2003 in Morgan v. Swanson, our firm took on the Plano Independent School District in what would become known as the “candy cane case.” This case garnered nationwide attention as we defended a elementary student whose Christmas gifts at the school “winter break” party were confiscated for having a religious message. The case helped solidify the First Amendment rights of students and teachers throughout the country.

For me it was more than a lawsuit. It was a poignant, nostalgic moment in my life. It took me back to the year 1980, riding home from kindergarten with my mother on the south side of Oklahoma City. It was an ordinary ride until she turned to tell me that our family was getting a divorce. That didn’t mean that much to me. I was a kid. For all I knew, “divorce” was a brand of refrigerator.

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