The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has upheld a school district's ban on Christmas carols such as "Silent Night," "Joy to the World," "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" – and approved "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman."
In the Nov. 24 ruling the Third Circuit approved the school policy banning all religious Christmas music, including instrumentals, that had been part of the South Orange–Maplewood School District's Christmas program for years – until one parent complained.
Attorneys with the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., argued to reverse a lower-court ruling affirming the policy. The firm argued the district's ban on religious music conveys a government-sponsored message of disapproval and hostility toward religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.
"Christmas is a national holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, not the birth of Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center. "This ruling is another example of how the courts have tyrannically twisted the Establishment Clause as a weapon against Christians in the War on Christmas."
The law firm says the school's ban was specifically aimed at preventing Christmas music, including simple instrumentals without words, during holiday concerts. As WND reported, the district had allowed the performance of traditional Christmas music for more than 60 years but in 2004 suddenly banned it.
The complaint was filed on behalf of Michael Stratechuk and his children in the district. The ban deprived the Stratechuk children the right to receive information and ideas, the suit asserts, an inherent corollary of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
Thomas More Law Center attorney Robert Muise indicated the case is not over. Muise said he will ask the Third Circuit to rehear it on both substantive and procedural errors. If denied, the Law Center indicated it will most likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The New Jersey school district policy at issue in the case was featured in a book, "The War on Christmas," by the Fox News Channel's John Gibson.
The district's decree ordered that only selections such as "Winter Wonderland" and "Frosty the Snowman" would be allowed, with a complete ban on tunes about Jesus and even Santa Claus.
The high school's brass ensemble had to rebuild its repertoire, the Martin Luther King Gospel Choir was ordered not to perform and printed programs were edited to remove any "graphics which refer to the holidays, such as Christmas trees."
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