Buttressing his already formidable reputation as a purveyor of cheap demagoguery, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a so-called “Merry Christmas bill” before jetting off to Washington to speak at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. The legislation aims at protecting the Lone Star State’s poor persecuted Christians from any lawsuits keeping them from offering specially religious holiday greetings on public property.

Perry’s championship of freedom of expression, of course, has strict limits, per the AP story on the bill-signing:

“It’s a shame that a bill like this one I’m signing today is even required, but I’m glad that we’re standing up for religious freedom in this state. Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”

Tell it to the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, Rick. But this freedom-for-me-but-not-for-thee posture has become conservative orthodoxy, certainly in Texas:

During the last Sunday of the legislative session on May 26, Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, gave the Texas House’s daily prayer.

“We are fortunate to live in a country where we have the freedom to exercise the religion of our choosing while also being free from having any religion imposed upon us,” said Howard, herself a Unitarian Universalist.

Her words prompted some conservative lawmakers to hold their own, separate prayer session moments later.

Aside from the sinister reinterpretation of the First Amendment as a charter for theocracy so long as it’s administered by an ecumenical oligarchy rather than a single denomination, what’s most maddening here is the propagation of modern history’s most ludicrous cause: the fight against the “War On Christmas,” in which Christians shame the memory of the saints and martyrs by whining about the terrible suffering they undertake when confronted by non-religious holiday greetings. Back in March, I noted that Sarah Palin was writing a book on this very subject, due to be published in November. Leave it to Rick Perry to beat Palin to the punch, by a good five months.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.