A parent is challenging a New Jersey school district’s ban on Christmas music with a lawsuit that has reached a federal appeals court.
Michael Stratechuk, who has two children enrolled in the South Orange-Maplewood School District, filed a brief yesterday in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, asserting the school district’s ban on religious music conveys the impermissible, government-sponsored message of disapproval of and hostility toward religion in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
As WorldNetDaily reported, last year the district expanded its no-Christmas music policy to include instrumental music. Instead of tunes about Jesus, and even Santa Claus, the 40-member Columbia High School brass ensemble was limited for the first time to seasonal selections such as “Winter Wonderland” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest firm, Stratechuk claims the ban deprives his children the right to receive information and ideas, an inherent corollary of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
“This blatant anti-religious policy is yet another example of the total and militant hostility that many public schools exhibit towards the celebration of Christmas,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center. “The Grinch is alive and well in New Jersey.”
Robert Muise, the attorney handling the case for Thomas More, noted in the brief: “Christmas is a national holiday, and religious music in the public schools is one of the rich traditions of this season. Those that are hostile to these traditions hide behind the mantle of ‘tolerance,’ only to promote intolerance. Indeed, we learn to understand and respect traditions, customs, and beliefs not by being offended or threatened by the traditions of others, but by understanding the meaning of such traditions and why they have the capacity to inspire.”
The school district’s policy was featured in the book, “The War On Christmas,” by Fox News Channel anchor John Gibson.
Last year, WND reported that Bogota, N.J., Mayor Steve Lonegan, a Republican candidate for governor, organized what he called an “illegal” night of caroling before the Columbia High School concert to draw attention to the school district’s ban. Lonegan invited his rivals to join him outside the school to sing songs that were deleted from the concert’s program.