Is it illegal to sing Christmas carols in public school? Or to display a manger scene or even to say the words “Merry Christmas” in those halls of learning?
Many public school officials act as though such prohibitions were clearly laid on in the Constitution and defensively ban every vestige of “religious expression” out of fear of an expensive ACLU lawsuit.
But this year, help is on the way: An army of 700 lawyers is being deployed to protect America’s schools from the ACLU grinch.
In the past few weeks, the Alliance Defense Fund has contacted over 3,600 school districts nationwide, explaining the law and separating myth from fact regarding the celebration of Christmas in public schools. Moreover, as part of the group’s “Christmas Project,” more than 700 ADF and affiliated attorneys nationwide are available – at no cost to the school district – to combat any attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas in schools and on public property.
“The phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but because of the fear, intimidation, and disinformation groups like the ACLU promote, many public officials and educational leaders mistakenly believe it is their duty to silence Christian religious expression,” said ADF President Alan Sears. “ADF’s goal this season is to inform and educate the 96 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas regarding their rights.”
Last month, ADF delivered the same information on the law to every state board of education and National Education Association chapter in the country, as well as to the national NEA office and the U.S. Department of Education.
The goal of ADF’s Christmas Project is to clear up misconceptions about seasonal religious expression on public property. According to the public-interest law firm:
- The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that public schools must ban the singing of religious Christmas carols or prohibit the distribution of candy canes or Christmas cards.
- School officials may refer to a school break in December as “Christmas Vacation” or as a holiday without offending the Constitution.
- School officials do not violate the Constitution by closing on religious holidays such as Christmas and Good Friday.
- No court has ever held that celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas as religious holidays requires recognition of all other religious holidays.
- The “Three Reindeer Rule” used by the courts requires a municipality to place a sufficient number of secular objects in close enough proximity to the Christmas item (such as a cr?che) to render the overall display sufficiently secular. Although the overall display must not convey a message endorsing a particular religion’s view, Christmas displays are not banned as some people believe. Simply put, the courts ask, “Is the municipality celebrating the holiday or promoting religion?”
“We want to dispel the myths about religious expression at Christmastime that have prompted wrongful acts of government censorship of religious speech,” Sears said. “It’s OK to say ‘Merry Christmas!’”
School Districts or public entities being sued over their Christmas displays or expression can contact the Alliance Defense Fund through its website or by calling 1-877-TELL-ADF.
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