Historically, the Christmas season, while rich in religious meaning for some, has been rife with hostility toward religion for others. When it comes to the holidays and religious freedom in public school, there are six things attorneys at Liberty Institute want students and teachers to know now, so they can be prepared.
SIX CHRISTMAS LIBERTIES FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
1. Schools can celebrate “Christmas” just as easily as they can celebrate “winter.”
As long as the school is not celebrating Christmas for the purpose of promoting or coercing others to follow Christianity, the school can refer to Christmas in their festivities. Educating students about Christmas is actually good education, as it provides an educational perspective of world history, the effect of religion upon culture, and the traditions of millions of Americans. Of course, while public schools can celebrate Christmas, they are not obligated to do so.
2. Schools can deck the halls in Christmas decorations.
A school district is allowed to display Christmas decorations for use as a teaching resource and to educate on the cultural and religious heritage of the holiday.
3. Schools can include Christmas-themed artistic expressions in school plays.
A school can incorporate religious music, art, and drama into its school-sponsored performances, as long as it is presented in an objective manner as a traditional part of the heritage of Christmas.
4. Students can wish their friends a Merry Christmas by handing out religious gifts like candy canes.
As Plano ISD learned in the “Candy Cane Case,” if students are allowed to hand out gifts at a school party, then no one can bar children from giving gifts with religious messages. If a school official prohibits a gift because of its religious message, then the school is demonstrating unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination and religious hostility.
5. Students can talk about their faith in school assignments.
Students can express their faith in any of their personal work–something protected throughout the year by the First Amendment freedom of speech clause and freedom of clause. Student work should be graded on the basis of academic standards, not on religious content. Sixth-grader and Liberty Institute beneficiary Mackenzie Fraiser is a perfect example of this.
6. School employees can talk about Christmas and religion outside of their official roles as educators.
Teachers and school employees can promote religion when not acting in their official functions, meaning before and after school, during break times, and any other time in their private life. This means that teachers can attend Christmas parties in their personal capacities, just like any other private citizen.
ARMED WITH INFORMATION
For more information about the religious rights of students and teachers year-round, download Liberty Institute’s free, online Religious Liberty Protection Kit for Students and Teachers by clicking here.
About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.