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Back to January Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 300 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JANUARY 2011

ACLU Targets Christmas in Schools
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The Tennessee branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a warning letter to 137 school superintendents regarding school Christmas celebrations. The letter suggested that celebrating Christmas while excluding winter holidays such as Kwanza, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah and Eid al Adha amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The group claimed it was responding to complaints from numerous families about such school activities.

"We believe . . . that holiday celebrations that focus primarily on one religious holiday can result in indoctrination as well as a sense within students who do not share that religion of being outsiders to the school," said Tennessee ACLU Executive Director Hedy Weinberg. The letter attempted to bolster its case by citing three U.S. Supreme Court decisions, none of which actually prohibits public celebrations of Christmas.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) countered with its own letter, stating that "No court has ever ruled that the Constitution demands school officials to censor Christmas carols, eliminate all references to Christmas, or silence those who celebrate Christmas." The ADF offered free legal defense to any Volunteer State school sued by the ACLU for Christmas activities.

The ADF also accused the ACLU of spreading misconceptions that have caused school officials to remove "nearly all religious references to Christmas. . . . While many do so unknowingly, school officials have begun a new 'tradition' of violating the constitutional rights of students and teachers to seasonal religious expression in our public school system."

Another civil liberties law firm sent their own memo to state superintendents to clarify what constitutes permissible Christmas celebrations in public schools. The Liberty Counsel explained that schools may display holiday religious symbols as long as they also display secular symbols. For example, "A Nativity is permissible, so long as it is accompanied by other symbols of the holiday, such as Santa Claus or the Christmas tree." Likewise, religious music, art and drama are acceptable as long as schools adhere to a simple principle — "mix the secular and the sacred."

A recent Rasmussen poll found that 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas and 83% believe public schools should celebrate the holiday. The ADF letter dismissed the ACLU's attempt to play Grinch. "The ACLU's conclusions are without merit and are part of a tired, worn-out, and disproven campaign of fear, intimidation, and disinformation." (www.cbn.com, 12-15-10)


 
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