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Come all ye faithful, dammit!

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced proponents of a new initiative may begin collecting petition signatures for their measure:

REQUIRES PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO OFFER CHRISTMAS MUSIC. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires public schools to offer an opportunity for students to listen to or perform Christmas music during the holiday season. Requires schools to notify students’ parents or guardians twenty-one days before the music will be played or performed so that students can opt-out of listening to or performing the music. Provides that a civil lawsuit may be brought to enforce these requirements. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Probably minor annual costs to school districts. (09-0030.)

I see the cover letter for the initiative says it’s “allowing for Christmas music in the public schools,” and the new section of state law the measure seeks to enact would be entitled, “Freedom to Present Christmas Music in Public School Classrooms or Assemblies.”

But the measure’s actual language clearly states “shall provide opportunities to its pupils for listening to or performing Christmas music at an appropriate time of year.” (Emphasis added.)

That’s “shall” as in, “I’ll be able to sue you if you don’t.”

Proponents Merry Susan Hyatt – the cover letter says she “moved to Redding but I will keep my registration in Riverside County,” a neat trick – and David Joseph Hyatt – Merry’s brother, in Shasta County – must collect valid signatures from at least 433,971 registered voters by March 29 in order to qualify their measure for the November 2010 ballot.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W.

    So, does “Frosty the Snowman” qualify as Christmas music? Or, how about “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus?” Or “Don we now our gay apparel,” sung by San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?

  • Josh Richman

    Seems it would be in the ear of the beholder. From the proposed measure:
    “Section 52711. As used in this article, ‘Christmas music’ includes, but is not necessarily limited to, carols, songs, and instrumental works whose subject matter relates to the celebration ofthe Christmas holiday or to the season during which that holiday is observed.”

  • tom

    We need an initiative that would outlaw frivolous initiatives.

  • Allan

    Public schools are first and foremost to teach the three R’s. They don’t seem to be doing a particularly good job at that. Christmas music is better suited for home and/or church–not the public schools. First things first–stick to the three R’s. To make such songs mandatory suggests a reversion to the “we will ram it down it down your throat whether you like it or not.”–just like the Sunday closing laws that were once common. Such music is best kept out of the public schools–all it will do is raise more controversy and divisiveness.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    “We need a nationwide revival, to put the love of God in our soul,
    We need a whole lot more of Jesus,
    And a lot less rock ‘n’ roll.” —popular C&W song

  • Poliphilo

    I’ll be voting for Santa Claus and that little guy in the manger.

  • Allan

    Perhaps the first thing we should consider is the simple question “How many other states have such a law?” None, to my knoledge. Also we have found public schools are best run and controlled locally by elected Boards. The less state and federal control the better. Got that?