“Remember, I said, it’s awfully early to be thinking this, but I always think it. All rights reserved. Many conservative groups have rallied to defend Christmas, lobbying for decorations in public schools or town halls. While schools cannot initiate or sponsor religious activities — including prayer — nobody can stop students from praying to whatever or whomever they want, whenever they want as long, as they do it privately and don’t try to force others to follow. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. According to the school principal: "We cannot tie candy canes, trees, wreaths, Santa Claus, etc, as a religious symbol. Yes, Christmas should be celebrated in public schools. Whether through ignorance, fear or political correctness, Americans are painfully misguided about the recognition of religious holidays. 8. Neither public nor private employers may prevent employees from decorating their offices for Christmas, playing Christmas music, or wearing clothing related to Christmas merely because of their religious content so long as these activities are not used to harass or intimidate others. Surely something has gone wrong when America's children are encouraged to celebrate the fictional Rudolph but are refused the opportunity to even mention Jesus, who was an actual, historical person. Schools are advised against holding a "Christmas party" in the classroom, the department says, though a "holiday" or "end of semester" or end-of-year party is permitted. In 2007, a controversy arose when a public school in Ottawa, Ontario, planned to have the children in its primary choir sing a version of the song "Silver Bells" with the word "Christmas" replaced by "festive"; the concert also included the songs "Candles of Christmas" and "It's Christmas" with the original lyrics. Can public schools have Christmas trees? 4. Such cards can even mention the words God and Jesus Christ. Being poor didn't really matter all that much because there was magic in the air. Ironically, the most targeted religious holiday for exclusion is also the most popular in American culture. Truth be told, students of all faiths are actually free to pray alone or in groups during the school day, as long as they don’t disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others. Lighting the candles in a menorah, however, would have religious significance and therefore wouldn’t be allowed. In July 2018, for example, he said: Not really. However, she was told by school officials that no religious objects could be used in the display. Holiday decorations don’t belong in a public school classroom. We can have the tree, candy cane, wreath, Santa Claus, etc, anything that is secular. What we can teach is the secular side of holidays. This is censorship, pure and simple. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. So my dad made one for me out of one of my mother's old leather purses. Public schools may not inculcate nor inhibit religion. Can teachers say “Merry Christmas” to their students? Everyone’s happy to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ right? I have yet to understand how anyone can discuss the true -- or even historical -- meaning of Christmas without at least a reference to the baby Jesus. Schools across the country avoid anything that alludes to the true meaning of Christmas, such as angels, the baby Jesus, stables and shepherds. 5. It didn't look like the ones on TV, but it worked pretty well. And it made me feel good that my dad cared enough to do what he could to make a little boy's Christmas dream come true. Christmas doesn't have to be controversial in public schools: Column Schools that study Christmas as an educational, rather than a devotional activity chart a middle way. Can students pray in school and listen to religious music? And why can't these important traditions be taught in our schools? 2. It has been more than 40 years since Charlie Brown, as he puzzled over the glitz and commercialism of the modern age, asked, "Doesn't anyone know the true meaning of Christmas?" But times have changed. These are succinctly set forth in The Rutherford Institute's "Twelve Rules of Christmas." A kindergarten teacher in a Texas public school was informed that he could not mention the word "Christmas" or tell the historical Nativity story because someone in the district might sue. Public schools may include Christmas music, including those with religious themes, in their choral programs if the songs are included for a secular purpose such as their musical quality or cultural value or if the songs are part of Public school students' written or spoken personal expressions concerning the religious significance of Christmas (e.g., T-shirts with the slogan, "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season") may not be censored by school officials absent evidence that the speech would cause a substantial disruption. School-sponsored singing of religious music poses slightly different concerns because so much choral music is religious. Hopefully, as our children ponder what Christmas is all about -- a subject that almost certainly arises in the classroom -- our teachers at least will realize that they have the right to truthfully answer the question. In order to clear up much of the misunderstanding, the following twelve rules are offered: 1. There were cutouts of the Nativity scene on the bulletin board, along with the smiling, chubby face of Santa and Rudolph. Nonetheless, many people still get in the holiday spirit during Christmastime in China, and all the trappings of a Western Christmas can be found in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. This means that students can freely distribute Christmas or Hanukkah cards to their friends and teachers, just as they would a birthday card. Apologizing for causing "stress" and awakening a "sleeping giant" with many of the baffled subordinates, she attached a list of "acceptable" and "not acceptable" practices during the holiday season. Manuel Katz, a … In New York City's public schools, religious decorations are banned, but symbols like Santa Claus, Christmas trees and menorahs are allowed. Not only can students participate in Christmas programs, but students may also be taught about the Biblical origins of Christmas in public school. Interestingly, a majority of the justices has stated that Christmas trees, unlike creches and menorahs, have attained a secular status in our society and can be displayed standing alone. All other secular customs of the "winter holiday" were deemed to be okay, just not the religious symbols of Christianity. 3. Can a Christmas tree ever be allowed? To the contrary, there are ways to celebrate Christmas in the public schools without violating the United States Constitution. It is not proper within a public school for any religion – including Humanism – to be suggested as superior to another.While we are not a Christian nation, we were founded using Christian beliefs and principles. Schools demonstrate fairness when they ensure that the curriculum includes study about religion, where appropriate, as an important part of a complete education. Not because I hate fun and joy but for a whole slew of legitimate reasons. Why can't it be a time to step back and meditate on the original meaning behind the Christmas holiday? The Rutherford Institute's "Twelve Rules of Christmas" are included below. (Note: This is a revised version of an earlier post on this subject). Christmas is not an official holiday in China, so most offices, schools, and shops remain open. Use of Christmas Trees in Regulated Occupancies (PDF). One group, the American Family Association based in … 5. Religious music can be played in public schools when the overall focus of the activity is not religious. At Christmas time there are often trees, lights, decorations and songs brought in and shared with schools and students. Once again, he promised to “save” it. Actually, it never really went away — not even in public schools, where the holiday season annually brings questions and concerns about what is legally allowed when it comes to religious expression in public schools. Linus responded by telling the story of Jesus Christ's birth, as recounted in Luke 2:7-14, to his friends and classmates. ©2021 Verizon Media. The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning. Yes. No, President Obama didn't ban Christmas trees or "Merry Christmas" from VA facilities. Why can't it be a season of extending a helping hand to the less fortunate? trees located in areas protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with section 903.3.1.1 or 903.3.1.2 shall not be prohibited in groups A. E. M. R-1 and R.2. Connecticut has no such law or state guideline. Visit public schools anywhere in America today and you’re likely to see kids praying around the flagpole, sharing their faith with classmates, reading scriptures in free time, forming religious clubs, and in other ways bringing God with them through the schoolhouse door each day. Just consider some of the incidents that have taken place in recent years. Private citizens or groups may display crèches or other Christmas symbols in public parks subject to the same reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that would apply to other similar displays. Recently there has been a lot of debate on whether or not public schools should celebrate or even acknowledge Christmas. This explains why in 1870 Presi… Cultural celebrations like Kwanzaa and the … Why can't it be a time to reflect and celebrate our freedoms? Public schools may include Christmas music, including those with religious themes, in their choral programs if the songs are included for a secular purpose such as their musical quality or cultural value or if the songs are part of an overall performance including other holiday songs relating to Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or other similar holidays. We sang Christmas carols in the classroom. FFRF has even received complaints about a nativity scene prominently displayed on the front lawn of public schools! He wrote: Haynes was the principal organizer and drafter of consensus guidelines on religious liberty in schools, which were endorsed by a broad range of religious and educational organizations. The claim that public schools are hostile to Christians may rev up caucusgoers in Iowa, but there’s only one problem: It isn’t true. Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and the Plymouth colony made celebrating Christmas a criminal offense, according to "Once Upon a Gospel" (Twenty-Third Publications, 2008). The school\\'s principal said in an email that she and the PTA chose to ban Christmas at the party to avoid \\"offending anyone.\\" Public Christmas Displays The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The answer to each of those questions? Of course, the right to engage in voluntary prayer or religious discussion does not necessarily include the right to preach to a captive audience, like an assembly, or to compel other students to participate. Schools can do plenty when it comes to religious expression: Charles C. Haynes, one of the best-known experts on religious liberty in American public life, has long said there has never been a “war on Christmas” and certainly not in public schools. When I was a child in the 1950s, my parents didn't have much money to spend at Christmastime. Public school students may not be prohibited from distributing literature to fellow students concerning the Christmas holiday or invitations to church Christmas events on the same terms that they would be allowed to distribute other literature that is not related to schoolwork. What’s true — and not true — about religious expression in public schools. Christmas trees, wreaths or decorations of any kind should not be placed in stairways, landings, corridors or other places contiguous with areas providing normal egress. For more information, e-mail The Rutherford Institute at staff@rutherford.org. Public schools uphold the First Amendment when they protect the religious liberty rights of students of all faiths or none. We made it easy for you to exercise your right to vote. We stuck to more "wintery" themes, such as snowmen According to the Supreme Court in Stone v. Graham , the “Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.” 449 U.S. 39, 42 (1980). Of course, any holiday observance should occur in an educational setting, rather than in a devotional atmosphere. We were all acutely aware that Christmas was more than a season to receive -- it was a special time to give as well. 15 Due to the dominance of religious music in serious choral music and the legitimate secular reasons for having public school students sing choral music, courts have been more lenient about allowing public school choirs to sing religious music. Extension cords and power strips shall be of the size and type recommended for use by the Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. While our Constitution does not give carte blanche to promote religion in the public schools, neither does it dictate a cleansing of Christmas from the classroom. "I think there's something wrong with me. Unfortunately, far too many parents, students and teachers erroneously believe they cannot celebrate Christmas in the public schools. So long as teachers are generally permitted to wear clothing or jewelry or have personal items expressing their views about the holidays, Christian teachers may not be prohibited from similarly expressing their views by wearing Christmas-related clothing or jewelry or carrying Christmas-related personal items. Today is National Voter Registration Day! While it is true that public school teachers, as agents of the state, may not advance religion, they are allowed to discuss the role of religion in all aspects of American culture and its history. Sure, I know it won’t hurt your Muslim or Jewish or And that’s because only because of our campaign.”, Interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data, as well as anticipating how events might unfold based on past events. What Charles Schulz' beloved 1965 cartoon did not capture, however, was the growing aversion on the part of many school officials and public figures to anything remotely related to the true Christmas story. Public or private employees whose sincerely held religious beliefs require that they not work on Christmas must be reasonably accommodated by their employers unless granting the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Religious groups can meet at public schools. In fact, rather than making Christmas the height of the selling season, why can't the focus be on celebrating family and friendship, camaraderie and memories? And this includes the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday. Can teachers and students talk about religion in class? By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, Reporter covering education, foreign affairs. Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead is president of The Rutherford Institute, Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. "I come from a place that Christmas and the like are not allowed in schools, as over the years in my educational career, this has evolved into the expectation for all educators," Sinclair wrote. In a society already known for its selfishness and consumerism, it seems that a religious holiday would be an opportunity to celebrate something more essential, something wholesome and good and also something that would remind us of our nation's history -- one that is dominated by a spiritual and religious heritage. --Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965. Some parents, teachers and school officials read that as barring any type of religious expression in a public school — but that is not what federal courts have said. When Donald Trump was running for president, he complained that liberals were waging a war on Christmas. You asked if Connecticut has a state law or guideline that prohibits decorating public schools for the Christmas holidays. That was under siege. Bring Back Our Christmas Trees at Fayetteville Public Schools A 'JESUS ban' in public schools has sparked fury from Coast MPs, after reports kids swapping Christmas cards, making Christmas tree decorations … Students may enjoy the same freedom of religious expression that is allowed any other time of the year, in or out of the classroom. As for celebrating Christmas, students are free to say “Merry Christmas,” give Christmas messages to others, and organize Christmas devotionals in student Christian clubs. Religious symbols, such as a Nativity scene, can be used in this context as well. To request assistance, complete our online form or contact our Legal Department at (434) 978-3888 or http://www.rutherford.org/Support/online_help_request_form.asp. Christmas trees … Police officers walk the hallways, and embattled teachers often act more like wardens than instructors. Anybody who wants to say “Merry Christmas” is legally permitted to do so. While these celebrations are no doubt intended to spread Christmas joy, there are negative consequences to these kinds of celebrations for children who do not belong to the Christian faith or who do not celebrate Christmas at … Trees shall be allowed within dwelling units in group R-2 occupancies. The student who brings a book can read/look at the book silently.". Meanwhile, Trump has been claiming he won the “war on Christmas” for some time. This does not mean that schools Individual school districts may have their own policies about Christmas decorations in school. Unfortunately, Christmas has become a time of controversy over what can or cannot be done in terms of celebrating the holiday. 10. For example, a member of a parent/teacher organization at a Connecticut elementary school was in charge of decorating a large display case in the school's entrance. There remain many public schools in this country that engage in holiday celebrations that revolve around Christian ideas and principles as they pertain to Christmas. We were never allowed to put up Christmas decorations - at least not to the extent of a Christmas tree. Two Jewish speakers clashed at the meeting. But in any case, this year he decried what he called a “war on Thanksgiving” by people who don’t want to call the holiday “Thanksgiving” anymore. It’s true that some public school officials still misunderstand (or ignore) the First Amendment by censoring student religious expression that is protected under current law. They’re not attacking it anymore. I remember one Christmas when I wanted a cowboy gun and holster from Santa Claus. display. I got the toy pistol, but Santa, it seems, couldn't afford a holster. Public schools may teach students about the Christmas holiday, including its religious significance, so long as it is taught objectively for secular purposes such as its historical or cultural importance, and not for the purpose of promoting Christianity. And the magic of Christmas, which hinges on the spiritual nature of the holidays, was promoted in the schools. They must be places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect. But when challenged in court, they invariably lose. The list stated items like Santa or Christmas items, Christmas trees, playing Christmas music and Elf on the Shelf were not allowed. An elementary school in Texas has banned Christmas trees and the colors red and green at its upcoming \\"winter\\" party though a recently passed state law protects traditional holiday greetings and displays at public schools. Mrs. Carl Poley, asserting she spoke as a Jew, said that many Jews wanted to see Christmas trees in public schools. No indoctrination toward a specific religion can ever be allowed in American public schools.Part of our American greatness is our ability to live in peace even with differences of viewpoints. Teachers should also make students and their parents aware of the school district's opt-out policy as an alternative to the teaching about any particular religion. Nobody says “Merry Christmas” anymore because it wasn’t “politically correct,” he complained, and then declared: “We are going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” Since then he has taken credit for making it a popular salutation again. Yet this reality has escaped many public schools. 6. Indeed, Christmas (Old English Cristes Maesse, "the Mass of Christ") was instituted, and for centuries kept, as a religious holiday. 7. But instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down." Government entities may erect and maintain celebrations of the Christmas holiday, such as Christmas trees and Christmas light displays, and may include crèches in their displays at least so long as the purpose for including the crèche is not to promote its religious content and it is placed in context with other symbols of the Holiday season as part of an effort to celebrate the public Christmas holiday through its traditional symbols. Fire Code Regulations for Live Christmas Trees in Schools is an informational infographic from the team at Balsam Hill , an online retailer for artificial Christmas trees. A legal organization that specializes in religious liberty issues is urging a Nebraska school principal to overturn her directive that banned anything related to Christmas – including Christmas music, Christmas carols, Christmas trees, candy canes and the colors red and green. We cannot read aloud to the students any book pertaining to religious beliefs or happenings brought by you [the teacher] or the students. Occupancies such as schools, hotels and retail stores may display natural cut trees only when they are protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system and when they are treated with an approved fire retardant. And what better time than Christmas? We also receive complaints about other religious symbols being displayed on public property, such as menorahs I just don't understand Christmas. 11. Remember the attack on Merry Christmas? 1. (The word holiday, it must be emphasized, means holy day.) Erasing traditional Christmas practices from our daily life is discouraging and disheartening. I like getting presents, sending cards, decorating trees and all that. Are American schoolchildren to be forbidden from learning about one of the most culturally significant events because it has spiritual overtones? Part of HuffPost Religion. Originally, Christmas included festivities, but its primary purpose was to provide a time for spiritual renewal. ______________. Sadly, the timeless celebration of Christmas seems to have been lost in the mix as well.  This design is meant to help school officials and purchasing agents all over the country, and not really intended fo Turmoil surrounds our schools. Indeed, teachers can use Christmas art, music, literature and drama in their classrooms, as long as they illustrate the cultural heritage from which the holiday has developed. Merry Christmas! To claim that Christmas is something other than it is -- a holiday with a religious foundation -- is both dishonest and historically unsound. Public schools may not require students to sing Christmas songs whose messages conflict with the students' own religious or nonreligious beliefs. No religious words can be attached. 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