Religious Expression in Public Flares During Christmas Season
Around the State
Santa Claus can jingle all the way to Christmas, but integrating Christ into Christmas in the public realm has come under fire again.
Stories abound as the new holiday season dawns. The American Humanist Association threatened to sue two charter schools in Colorado and South Carolina. The crime … filling shoeboxes with toys, simple needs like toothbrushes and hope for needy children in association with Operation Christmas Child. Limited legal budgets forced them to shut down.
Those who oppose the religious side of Christmas say it violates separation of church and state. This is one of the many fallacies put to rest by Alliance Defending Freedom, which has stepped in to clarify many misconceptions about the constitutionality of celebrating Christmas in a public arena. Roughly 13,000 letters were sent to school districts all over the nation, including in Florida, explaining the Constitution and debunking typical myths. For example, they said OK to sing traditional Christmas carols and say, "Merry Christmas," even at school.
The Establishment Clause “only restricts government speech … Therefore, it is unconstitutional for public officials to deny individuals the right to religious speech and expression by imposing on them a limitation intended for the government,” ADF stated.
Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told Sunshine State News, “In the past few weeks, Alliance Defending Freedom sent letters to three schools that had banned religious Christmas carols from their music programs. Each school quickly reversed its decision. As these three victories demonstrate, we often find that once schools are educated about the law in this area they are more than willing to stand up against the fear and misinformation spread by groups like the ACLU.”
Educating schools has given courage to those who had cowered at the threat of legal battles and censorship. In fact, after ADF sent its letter, the Masters Singers rebanded in their Wisconsin school and the charter school in South Carolina went back to packing shoeboxes for children. The students in Colorado went one step further by staging their own protest and packing shoeboxes on the sidewalk instead of school property.
Not all schools have issues with singing "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World."
Sean Linfors was the choir director at Timber Creek High School in Orlando. His balanced repertoire of sacred and secular music was never met with opposition. “It simply didn’t come up,” he told SSN. “I think that the music needs to be selected with a strong educational foundation, religious sensitivity and good taste!”
Any public property is fodder for those defiant enough in their own beliefs to want to diffuse the faith of others, especially at Christmas. Many times it is one parent or one citizen that is offended by the mention or symbol of Jesus, and it changes the law for everyone.
In Deerfield Beach last year, an atheist was offended by the nativity displayed at a fire station. When his protests didn’t result in the nativity being taken down, he put up his own "anti-religious" display consisting of an 8-foot beer can tower. There is no nativity this year after a new law only allows Christmas displays owned by the city … that nativity was privately owned.
Deerfield joins Boca Raton in putting the kibosh on Christian displays, as well as so many other cities that have succumbed to a culture that touts the celebration of diversity but finds the battle is not worth the cause.
Lisa Folch writes special to Sunshine State News.