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Christmas carols banned,
but Hanukkah songs OK

Religious-liberty attorneys have contacted a Wisconsin school district that consistently forbids Christian Christmas carols from being sung in music programs but finds nothing wrong with Hanukkah songs.

According to law firm Liberty Counsel, the Glendale-River Hills School District of Glendale, Wis., has a written policy saying songs with “dogmatic religious statements” are strictly forbidden.

A statement from Liberty Counsel tells the story of Barbara Wheeler, whose 9-year-old daughter attends school in the district. In 2003, when the district’s music programs excluded religious Christmas songs, Wheeler complained about their absence. School officials said they would get back to her, but they reportedly never did. Last year, Wheeler voiced complaints to the district in mid-November, but school officials said the songs already were set.

This year, when the school’s music program contained Hanukkah and secular Christmas songs but no religious Christmas songs, Wheeler again objected.

That’s when the mother was referred to the district’s written policy:

“Music programs given at times close to religious holidays should not use the religious aspect of these holidays as the underlying motive or theme. No songs should be sung which contain dogmatic religious statements.”

According to Liberty Counsel, Frances Smith, the district administrator, says the Hanukkah songs are more cultural than spiritual and thus are OK to sing.

On behalf of Wheeler, Liberty Counsel has written a demand letter to the district, stating that the school’s policy is unconstitutional. Included was the law firm’s Friend or Foe Christmas memo, which addresses the legality of celebrating Christmas.

The letter requests that the district immediately change its policy and include religious Christmas songs. Failure to respond favorably will subject the district to a lawsuit, Liberty Counsel says.

“The intent of the school district’s policy is clear – ‘Frosty the Snowman’ is in, ‘My Dreidel’ is in, ‘Silent Night’ is out,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel president and general counsel. “How much more ridiculous can it get when 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, but the school district pretends like Christmas is merely a ghost of Christmas past.”

The organization’s Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign urges churches to run Friend or Foe ads in their local newspapers.

Controversy over Christmas and its celebration in the public square has reached a fever pitch this year with battles raging over everything from what to call evergreen trees to whether or not retailers allow their employees to wish customers a “merry Christmas.”

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