Legal Corner: Can I have Christmas displays in my classroom?

Legal Corner: Can I have Christmas displays in my classroom?
(Source: Ball, McKenzie)

Submit your questions to news@kplctv.com. Civil matters only, please.

QUESTION: Is it true that there are there days legally designated as days of rest? If so, please let me know when they are!

ANSWER: Yes there are. The first one named is Sunday! Most of us are familiar with the most popular holidays, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and others, but in the city court of Sulphur, the second Monday in October, Christopher Columbus Day shall be a legal holiday. in the parish of Vermilion, the Friday of the Cattle Festival in Abbeville shall be a legal holiday. in the parish of Iberia, the Friday of the Sugar Cane Festival, in the parish of St. Mary, the Friday of the Black Bear Festival, , in the parish of Grant, the Friday of the Pecan Festival and in the parish of Union, the Friday of the Watermelon Festival shall be a legal holiday for the purpose of authorizing the clerks of court to close their offices in observance of those days, unless there is an election that requires their office to remain open. Of course there are stipulations and exceptions quoted with each.

THE LAW: LA R.S. 1: §55 et seq.. Days of public rest, legal holidays, and half-holidays

A. The following shall be days of public rest and legal holidays and half-holidays:

(1) The following shall be days of public rest and legal holidays: Sundays; January 1, New Year's Day; January 8, Battle of New Orleans; the third Monday in January, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday; January 19, Robert E. Lee Day; third Monday in February, Washington's Birthday; Good Friday; the last Monday in May, National Memorial Day; June 3, Confederate Memorial Day; July 4, Independence Day; August 30, Huey P. Long Day; the first Monday in September, Labor Day; the second Monday in October, Christopher Columbus Day; November 1, All Saints' Day; November 11, Veterans' Day; the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day; December 25, Christmas Day; Inauguration Day in the city of Baton Rouge; provided, however, that in the parish of Orleans, the city of Baton Rouge, in each of the parishes comprising the second and sixth congressional districts, except the parish of Ascension, and in each of the parishes comprising the fourteenth and thirty-first judicial districts of the state, the whole of every Saturday shall be a legal holiday, and in the parishes of Catahoula, Caldwell, West Carroll, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas, Union, Jackson, Avoyelles, West Feliciana, Rapides, Natchitoches, Grant, LaSalle, Winn, Lincoln, and East Baton Rouge, the whole of every Saturday shall be a holiday for all banking institutions, and in the parishes of Sabine and Vernon each Wednesday and Saturday, from 12:00 o'clock noon until 12:00 o'clock midnight, shall be a half-holiday for all banking institutions. All banks and trust companies, however, may, each at its option, remain open and exercise all of its regular banking functions and duties upon January 8; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday; January 19; Washington's Birthday; Good Friday; National Memorial Day; June 3; August 30; Christopher Columbus Day; November 1; and Veterans' Day; and all banks and trust companies located in Ward 1 of the parish of Avoyelles may, each at its option, remain open and exercise all of its regular banking functions and duties until 12 o'clock noon on Saturdays;

QUESTION: During this time of year, I am often questioned about the display of religious displays in my restaurant. Of, course it is a public place, but am I restricted from putting up these displays?

ANSWER: Inasmuch as you are a privately- owned business, the restrictions do not apply to you. However, the Legislature of Louisiana finds that (1) There is a need to educate and inform the public as to the history and background of American and Louisiana law. (2) that America and Louisiana’s religious history plays an important role in the background of our laws. (3) The role of religion in the constitutional history of both America and Louisiana is acknowledged by historians. (4) that the basic knowledge of American legal history is important to the formation of civic virtue in our society. (5) The Legislature of Louisiana now endorses the extension an appropriate presentation of the story of the role of religion in the constitutional history of America and Louisiana, which may be publicly displayed in court houses and other state and local buildings throughout the state of Louisiana.

THE LAW: LA R.S. 32§1281, 1282, 1283 .DISPLAY OF RELIGIOUS DOCUMENTS AS HISTORY OF LAW

Public displays of religious history impacting the law A. Public displays with acknowledged religious history may include, but shall not be limited to, the items in this Section. B. The Mayflower Compact, written and adopted in 1620, the text which reads as follows:

Mayflower Compact (1620 A.D.)

Agreement Between the Settlers at New Plymouth: 1620

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

C. The Ten Commandments, as extracted from the Bible.

D. The Declaration of Independence, adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776, the text of which reads as follows:

The Declaration of Independence.

Public displays set forth in R.S. 25:1282(B), (C), (D), and (E) shall be accompanied by a document entitled "Context for Acknowledging America's Religious History" which shall read as follows:(1) Some documents stand out as pivotal in the religious history of America and Louisiana's legal system, among which are the Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence as a legal foundation for the United States Constitution, the Ten Commandments as one of the foundations of our legal system, and the Northwest Ordinance, which was a primary document affirming faith and the first congressional act legally prohibiting slavery. It is hoped that their study and relation to each other and the history of our state and nation will foster an appreciation for the role that religion has played in the legal history of America and the state of Louisiana and prompt further public study.

QUESTION: I am a high school teacher and I have recently relocated to Lake Charles. I would like to display Christmas symbols in my classroom but I certainly do not want to get in trouble with the laws here and lose my job. I did not want to ask my principal, so I decided to write to you and ask, what is permissible?

ANSWER: Welcome to Lake Charles! In Louisiana, you may educate students about the history of traditional celebrations in winter and allow students to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including but not limited to:(1) Merry Christmas.(2) Happy Hanukkah.(3) Happy holidays.(4) Happy Kwanzaa. Also, a school board may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional celebrations in winter, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree. However, the display must include a scene or symbol of at least one of more than one religion or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.

THE LAW: LA R.S. 17§2118. Celebrations in winter

A. A school board may educate students about the history of traditional celebrations in winter and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including but not limited to:(1) Merry Christmas.(2) Happy Hanukkah.(3) Happy holidays.(4) Happy Kwanzaa. B. Except as provided by Subsection C of this Section, a school board may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional celebrations in winter, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of at least one of the following:(1) More than one religion.(2) One religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. C. A display relating to a traditional celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.

Disclaimer: The information furnished in this answer is general and may not apply to some situations. All legal situations are unique. No one should rely to their detriment on these answers. Anyone with a potential legal problem should seek the advice of a licensed attorney before taking any action or inaction. The answers provided are not intended to be specific legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created between the SWLA Law Center and the viewers of KPLC-TV.

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