by Barbara Samuells
Some children in public schools are able to share the excitement of Christmas with classmates, others are not.
Misunderstandings about the whole issue of faith in public schools make headlines every December. Schools displaying nativity scenes, singing Christmas music and even presenting “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” are threatened with expensive lawsuits by groups working to keep Americans free from religion. Misapplied claims of violation of the separation of church and state have even been known to prevent a teacher from using red and green decorative paper on a bulletin board.
The facts of our 1st Amendment, as upheld in many court cases, make it clear that Christmas, as well as other religious holidays, can be celebrated in public schools “because doing so serves the educational goal of advancing students’ knowledge and appreciation of the role that America’s religious heritage has played in the social, cultural and historical development of civilization.” (Florey vs Sioux Falls Sch Dist. 8th Circuit, 1980)
Public schools can celebrate Christmas parties and include religious Christmas music, art or drama in a school performance as long as it is part of the cultural and religious heritage of Christmas and not a religious service.
School choirs can include religious and sacred music for the same reasons. In fact, some courts have stated that removing religious music would demonstrate an unlawful animosity toward religion. (Bauchman, 132 F.3d. at 554)
If students are allowed to give gifts at a school party, then students may give gifts that include religious messages.
The battle for our children’s religious liberty was won by our earliest patriots. That liberty has been preserved by armies of American’s since. It is up to every one of us to honor their sacrifice by insisting our children’s rights to live their faith and celebrate Christmas are respected.