'Tis the season for the Christmas Grinches to come out and try to intimidate school officials. Schools routinely get letters from atheist or Leftist groups promoting erroneous ideas about schools needing to be scrubbed clean of any reference to the religious aspects of Christmas. Many educators mistakenly think that it is illegal to display a nativity scene or even a Christmas tree in class. I remember years ago a school banning red and green icing on cookies lest someone think the school was endorsing religion.
Most people only think of the LEGALITY of recognizing Christmas. But there are two issues that need to be addressed when it comes to Christmas -- it is legal AND it is good:
1. Is it LEGAL to acknowledge the religious aspects of Christmas? The answer is YES. Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom point out:
"The Supreme Court has held that the display of a nativity scene is constitutional when displayed along with secular symbols for legitimate secular purposes, such as to celebrate the holiday and to depict the origins of the holiday. Lower federal courts have also allowed public schools to include both religious and secular symbols in Christmas displays, school calendars, and holiday programs. A court held that the school's holiday display and song program, which included both religious and secular symbols, books, and songs, did not violate the Establishment Clause." (see link below for more info.)
2. Is it GOOD to acknowledge the religious aspects of Christmas? Again, the answer is a resounding YES.
There are educational reasons for acknowledging the holiday. Christmas is the biggest holiday in American culture, and it is rooted in the religion that has the most significant impact on American history, culture, and values. Because Christianity has had such an impact on America, state academic standards WANT students to learn about it. For example:
- Massachusetts: "Describe the origins of Christianity."
- California: Learn about "the life and teachings of Jesus."
- Florida: "Identify key figures and the basic beliefs of early Christianity."
- Texas: "Explain the significance of religious holidays and observances such as Christmas..."
Besides specifically identifying Christianity, states also want students to learn about their local culture. For example:
- Kansas: "Students will investigate the significance of events, holidays, and ceremonies that are important to their communities."
- Minnesota: "Describe how the culture of a community reflects the history, daily life or beliefs of its people."
- North Carolina: "The learner will explain celebrated holidays and special days in communities."
It is not enough to merely argue that it is legal to teach about Christmas; we must also help educators, parents, and the Christmas Grinches understand that states want students to learn about their local cultures because it is part of a good education.
To help public school educators move from fear to freedom on the issue of Christmas in their classrooms, here are some links I urge you to share with them:
- ADF answers educator's legal questions regarding holidays
- Gateways' Lesson Plan for Christmas and Hanukkah
- My news segment with Focus on the Family's Citizenlink regarding Christmas
- Your state's academic standards regarding the Bible & Christianity
BLESS EDUCATORS you know by sending them a link to this blog.