Columns

Religious Expression in Public Flares During Christmas Season

By: Lisa Beth Folch | Posted: December 2, 2013 5:55 PM

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.

Imagine telling a high school choir director that he has to limit the number of religious songs in the school's winter concert or postpone any December concerts until the new year. That’s exactly what happened in Wisconsin; the choir director disbanded the choir as a result. In the same vein, Bordentown Regional School District in New Jersey disallowed religious Christmas songs at elementary school concerts.

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. 


Comments (9)

Dana Davis
10:19AM DEC 19TH 2013
It would seem you all miss an obvious point: Public schools are not "state," they are public. The were not created by the state, founded by the state, or governed by the state - they are publicly owned entities governed by a locally elected "school board." Anything related to school therefore falls to local consensus democracy, community censure, and local penal code. If we retreat to the 1960s, what we find is two wholly unconstitutional Supreme Court decisions. Because public schools are NOT "state."
KathleenJJohnson
12:02AM DEC 4TH 2013
my neighbor's mother makes $63 every hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her pay check was $15302 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Learn More Here

➜➜➜➜➜➜➜ W­­W­W.FB­­4­­9.C­O­­M
David Williamson
8:47PM DEC 3RD 2013
Is this a blog or a news story? Diversity is achieved when the beer tower mocking religion gets the same government support as the rest. This means the forum is truly open and there is no preference of one religion over another or religion over non-religion. How else do you propose we do this? There are only two options--everyone is in or everyone is out.
Chaz Stevens
1:43PM DEC 3RD 2013
Lisa;

You so miss the point, but I imagine, that's familiar territory with you.

This wasn't so much about me putting up a Festivus Pole, as it was to have the other displays taken down.

Mission accomplished in my book.

A twenty-five year tradition ended, the war on Xmas declared over... Take your stupid displays of fear and move them off public property.

I stuck a blow for the Constitution with aluminum, but you're likely to also miss the irony of that point.

Chaz Stevens, Deerfield Beach
David Williamson
9:08PM DEC 3RD 2013
Thanks for your effective work in the name of the Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, and the Equal Rights Act. You are the true hero in our democracy, Chaz, and we should all thank you.
evil is as evil does
8:08AM DEC 3RD 2013
All one has to do is pay attention to who is pulling obama's strings!

They put him on a pedestal with a teleprompter and the average dumb voter-taxpayers credits him with the fall of the greatest nation ever on earth.

Reality is it is the faulty of the string pullers - the wolves in sheeps clothing. But as George W/ Bush once said "you can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on!"

And they have!
Frank
8:53PM DEC 3RD 2013
Must be drunk . . . another totally irrelevant comment by another SSN weird pseudonym. . . . sigh, seems to be often the norm here on SSN . . . makes one wonder whether they're really all this dense, or this is all just being orchestrated to bump up the comments count . . . or something . . . .

Pathetic . . .
Franc
1:00PM DEC 4TH 2013
Yet you keep coming back and posting your liberal responses to these articles. Now that is truely PATHETIC!!!
Frank
5:15PM JAN 24TH 2014
No more than being an intentional SSN name-alike troll . . .

Pathetic . . .

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