While some public schools now talk about “winter break,” rather than “Christmas vacation,” Missouri attorney Dee Wampler is leading an effort to restore the traditional holiday name.
“I believe we are sacrificing our history and cheating our students out of an honest look at American history,” said Wampler, a member of Second Baptist Church in Springfield.
Wampler became alerted to the issue more than 10 years ago when the Springfield School District changed the name of Christmas vacation.
“Since it’s a federal holiday, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t recognized,” he said.
Three years ago, with help from researchers, Wampler started compiling information on every school calendar in Missouri. He found seven schools within 100 miles of Springfield that did not recognize Christmas. In each of those towns, he contacted local pastors and recruited volunteers to attend school board meetings and petition to put Christmas back on the calendar.
Six schools changed the calendars back to Christmas. Some boards said it was an inadvertent mistake, while others had close votes about the change.
In January 2009, about 70 people attended the board of education meeting in Springfield. Wampler emphasized the cultural, historical and traditional aspects of Christmas. He was clear not to make it a religious issue.
Schools that have removed references to Christmas usually are scared of being criticized by the cultural left, Wampler said. “They’re trying to be politically correct. They don’t want to offend anybody, as if you have a constitutional right to not ever be hurt.”
Worries about lawsuits also may cause the change, but Wampler said that’s unfounded.
“There has never, ever been a recorded case in history that says you can’t recognize Christmas on the calendar,” the attorney said.
The Springfield school board, however, voted to keep its “winter break.” Christmas is listed on the back page of the calendar as “dates to remember” along with other religious holidays such as Easter, Passover and Yom Kippur.
“We approved a calendar that would meet the educational needs of our students,” board member Andy Hosmer was quoted as saying in the Springfield News-Leader. “We’re not making a statement.”
It marked the third time Wampler addressed the board of education.
“Perseverance is the key,” he said. “You have to stay after them.”
He would like to recruit parents and residents in other parts of the state to take up the issue with their school districts. He especially needs help in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.
“Christians need to become engaged in the culture on every issue — school books, parents and parent-teacher organizations,” he said.
The first step is to look at the official calendar for the school district and if Christmas isn’t listed, talk to a school board. Wampler said he’s available to offer advice on how to proceed, whether in Missouri or in other states. He can be contacted via e-mail, email@example.com.
Christians should not underestimate the influence they can have over their local governments and public schools, said Wampler, author of a 2008 book, “One Nation Under God: A trial lawyer exposes the myth of the separation between church & state.”
“The answer is at the ballot box,” he said. “The public is the one that should control the schools.”
Written by Susan Mires for Baptist Press