A petition has been submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to repair damage done by a lower court in a ruling that allows the display in public schools of menorahs and star-and-crescent symbols, but not Christian symbols.
At issue is the policy of the New York City public schools that encourages the display of “secular” symbols such as the menorah at Hanukkah and the star and crescent symbol at Ramadan, but bans the Nativity at Christmas because of its religious meaning.
The Thomas More Law Center said the offending policy was instituted by the public schools in New York City, and then approved by a sharply divided opinion from the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals.
And Law Center staff lawyer Robert Muise told WorldNetDaily that a logical, constitutional resolution of this case at the Supreme Court level could impact dozens, maybe hundreds, of other cases.
“If you went back to what the founding fathers intended, you wouldn’t have these endorsement tests of religious displays. All of these would be non-issues,” he said. Thus, there wouldn’t have to be lawsuits over various Christian, or other, symbols that appear in schools, on T-shirts or on money.
That’s because the founding fathers, by their formal acknowledgement of God in foundational documents, showed they recognized God, they just didn’t want the state to set up a church, he indicated.
He said the majority opinion in the New York case shows just how far afield lower courts have drifted, and how much they need guidance in the area of Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The original clause is just a few words – that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Yet it takes 152 pages to justify displaying menorahs but banning Nativities, he said.
“Many federal courts are using the contrived endorsement test to cleanse America of Christianity,” said Richard Thompson, president of the Law Center. “This unprincipled test allows judges to impose their ideological views under the pretext of constitutional interpretation.
“Thus,” Thompson said, “The majority opinion says it is legitimate to discriminate against Christians in the largest public school system in the country, with over one million students enrolled in its 1,200 public schools and programs. The Supreme Court needs to review this case.”
The city school policy expressly allows the menorah to be displayed as a symbol of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, and the star and crescent to be displayed as a symbol of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan.
But it expressly bans any cr?che or nativity display as a symbol of Christmas.
Two of the three judges on the 2nd Circuit panel ruled that concept is constitutional.
But in a 46-page dissent, Circuit Judge Chester A. Straub said the policy “fails” under the Constitution.
“It is my view that the policy of the New York City Department of Education to arrange for the children to celebrate the holiday season in schools through the use of displays and activities that include religious symbols of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah and the Muslim commemoration of Ramadan, but starkly exclude any religious symbols fo the Christian holiday of Christmas, fails under the (Constitution).”
The Law Center had challenged the system-wide ban on behalf of Andrea Skoros and her two minor children, who attend public schools in New York.
‘Now that Justice O’Connor, the author of the endorsement test, is no longer on the Court, and with the additions of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, two conservative Justices, we are hopeful that the Court will accept this case for review and use it to abandon its ridiculous, anti-Christian jurisprudence,” Muise said.
The law center noted that several justices on the Court at this point already have been critical of the same issue.
“The unintelligibility of this Court’s precedent raises the further concern that, either in appearance or in fact, adjudication of Establishment Clause challenges turns on judicial predilections,” said Justice Clarence Thomas.
In the petition, the Law Center said the New York policy also creates a hostility towards Christianity.
“The Constitution does not require complete separate of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any,” the Law Center said.
“I find it clear that the current policy and displays violate the Establishment Clause insofar as a reasonable student observer would perceive a message of endorsement of Judaism and Islam and a reasonable parent observer would perceive a message that Judaism and Islam are favored and that Christianity is disfavored,” Straub wrote.