By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed legal papers against a school district on Thursday over its refusal to allow a nurse's aide to display a poster featuring a Christian message from the holiday television cartoon "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Paxton, a conservative Christian, said the Killeen Independent School District had unlawfully stamped out religious expression when it banned the poster from a middle school earlier this month, and his office intervened on behalf of the nurse's aide to ask a state district court judge to find the district at fault.
"Once again, public schools have decided that their commitment to diversity does not extend to Christians," Paxton said in a statement.
The poster included a hand-drawn cartoon figure of Peanuts character Linus and a quote from the half century-old animated TV show that has been a staple of the holiday season.
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord... That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown," the text read.
On Wednesday, the school board for the central Texas city voted to ban the poster's display on the grounds that it could offend students who do not have the same religious views as Christians.
Killeen school district officials said they did not plan to comment on the attorney general's legal action and that the district is studying guidelines on the use of religious displays and decorations.
In its filing, Paxton's office said "the Texas Constitution's establishment principles restrict only government speech, not the Christmas-oriented speech of its teachers or students."
Matt Angle, director of the left-leaning Lone Star Project that is often critical of Paxton, saw the attack against the school district as being a "cynical smokescreen."
"Ken Paxton is exploiting people of faith in order to distract from his own criminal indictment," Angle said.
Paxton is facing securities fraud charges that can bring up to 99 years in prison if he is convicted. He is expected to go on trial next year.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Sandra Maler)