12/1/2006 - December 2006 - Christmas Rights in Public Schools
Christmas Rights in the Public Square
The removal of religious rights at Christmas is most commonly seen in public schools. This is particularly egregious, since it affects persons in the community who are least able to defend themselves. Here are some general rules:
1. Students’ written or spoken personal expressions about the religious significance of Christmas, including wearing expressive clothing, and distributing religious Christmas literature on the same terms as other literature, cannot be censored.
2. Teachers may wear expressive clothing and personal items of religious significance. Teachers may not teach their personal opinions. Teachers may send Christmas cards to families of students on their own time and expense.
3. School or classroom activities about Christmas may not exclude religious aspects. Public schools may teach all aspects and display all symbols of Christmas.
4. Schools may include religious Christmas music in programs, but may not require students who object to participate.
Additionally, governmental entities can have religious themed Christmas displays, as long as it is part of a larger display of other symbols of Christmas. Public employees may personally express their religion by clothing, personal articles and private speech. In the private sector, employers must reasonably accommodate similar rights.
In summary, Christmas religious expression is entitled to virtually the same protection of any other speech. Our free exercise of religion and free speech rights provide significant protection. It is, however, misunderstood by many and clarification usually resolves the problem. We are glad to respond on anyone’s behalf to protect their rights.
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