Bill shields school religious displays from suits

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Legislation that would protect schools from lawsuits for allowing traditional winter celebrations and religious displays has been approved in the House.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden was overwhelmingly approved 83-4 on Thursday. The Senate version was unanimously approved 30-0 last month.

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."

Sponsors say some groups have threatened to sue over such displays and greetings, and the legislation would protect schools.

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