Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, February 05, 2010

Christmas in School Means Inclusiveness

In Waterbury, Connecticut, Walsh Elementary School had a “winter celebration” in December, but no religious or even secular symbols such as Santa Claus or Christmas trees were permitted. The principal banned Christmas parties in classrooms as well as Christmas decorations because he didn’t want to offend some students. He said, “This is not a church. It’s a school and it’s a public school. I have to do things that include every child. So what we do is celebrate winter.” The school did allow presents and carols, along with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa songs.

In Fishers, Indiana, Lantern Road Elementary School had a holiday show that aimed to teach inclusiveness in its second-grade program. The show included segments about Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa. School officials did remove the line in a song that included “Allah is God” after American Family Association publicized the matter.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a New Jersey school district's restrictions on the performance of religious music, citing inclusiveness as a factor. The school encouraged "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Winter Wonderland," while excluding "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night."

One parent sued. The judge's decision denied that the ruling against Christmas music showed hostility to religion or that it violates the principle that government should be neutral toward religion. The essence of the judge's decision was that times have changed. The judge wrote that while many adults remember singing Christmas songs in public schools, "the governing principles have now been examined and defined with more particularity," and decisions about "how to best create an inclusive environment in public schools" should be left to the school authorities.

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