Massachusetts Town Fights Over Christmas on School Calendar

Massachusetts Town Fights Over Christmas on School Calendar

Both the Washington Times and The Blaze tell the story today of Norwood, Massachusetts and the fight against a school district changing school calendars from showing “Christmas break” to “Winter break”.

It is one of the oldest skirmishes in the war on Christmas: The school board says the new title is more inclusive, which local parents interpret as an attack on Christmas and Christian faith.

Local activist Theresa McNulty thinks the School Committee’s decision to rename Christmas recess to winter recess is indicative of a larger problem in the United States.

“We think there is a movement in our country to demote Christianity and Christmas is the name of a Christian feast day,” McNulty said. “Christmas is the name of a national holiday. They changed the name of a national holiday to winter recess, and that offended us.”

The school district claims it is about much more than Christmas.

“The motivation for the change is if we designate a week and a half vacation for one holiday, we were giving the message that we are holding that holiday as greater than other holidays on the calendar,” said School Committee member John Badger, who originally proposed the change to winter recess.

Superintendent James Hayden noted Christmas is listed on the school calendar, as are a number of other religious holidays from various faiths listed.

“This is not a fight about Christmas. We acknowledge it. It’s about being representative for everyone,” Hayden said. “I hope we can get beyond being hung up on labels.”

Lousiana Newest State to Pursue Christmas Bill

Lousiana Newest State to Pursue Christmas Bill

Christmas and Hanukkah should be celebrated freely at public schools in Louisiana without fear of punishment, according to a state lawmaker from Shreveport, who plans to file legislation to ensure citizens understand their rights during the winter holidays.

State Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Republican, said Thursday he will file a so-called “Merry Christmas” bill during the 2014 legislative session.

The bill closely mirrors legislation passed into law in Texas this year, which allowed public school staff and students to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah — by wearing festive garb, verbalizing greetings and holding events — “as long as more than one religion is represented and a secular symbol such as a reindeer or snowman is displayed.”

The Texas law also allows school districts to “educate students about the history of traditional winter.”

“There is a lot of misperception about what the First Amendment actually allows,” said Seabaugh. “Anti-Christian groups, like the (American Civil Liberties Union), want everyone to believe that traditional Christian symbols like nativity scenes and saying ‘Merry Christmas’ are never allowed. That is absolutely not the case.”

He added the legislation would not actually change the law in any real way, since these kinds of celebrations and displays are already allowed, but would instead put the Supreme Court ruling “in state law so there an be a level of comfort within Louisiana public systems” and “to let them know that what they’re trying to do is okay.”

In response, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman said her group has long been at the forefront of the fight to protect free speech, which includes “protecting Americans from government-imposed religion, because the practice of religion belongs in our houses of worship and our homes.”

The Texas law only applies to “winter holidays” and specifically mentions only Christmas and Hanukkah.

One Man Holding Up Oklahoma Merry Christmas Bill

One Man Holding Up Oklahoma Merry Christmas Bill

After months of consideration it is down to one man in Oklahoma in getting the Merry Christmas Bill there passed.

A grass roots campaign to reach Senator John Ford of Oklahoma is underway as proponents of the Merry Christmas Bill there struggle to bring the legislation before the state Senate for a final vote. Senate Education Committee chairman Ford apparently does not see a need for the bill, frustrating the fellow Republicans who brought the popular legislation forward.

With just a short period of time left in the legislative session to advance the bill this year supporters are asking citizens who approve the legislation to contact Ford. He can be reached at 918-914-9300 or 405-521-5634.

Oklahoma is the 7th state to consider such a measure and it was learned late last week that legislators in Louisiana will be the 8th state to vote on such a bill. The bill has passed in every state so far presented with overwhelming majorities mostly driven by Republicans.

The bill typically is written as a means to protect school districts from lawsuits. In recent years out-of-state organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation have sued on behalf of local residents over the observance of Christmas in public schools. From children singing carols to the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas” secular groups have attacked schools as promoting religion as violation of the establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution.

It is widely viewed as a weak argument but school districts typically don’t have the resources to fight such frivolous law suits in court and end up complying with their demands, thus angering parents and disappointing kids. The simple legislation protects against such lawsuits and sets up basic rules for presenting Christmas in schools fairly.

VA Hospital Negotiating to Censor Christmas Carols

VA Hospital Negotiating to Censor Christmas Carols

The flap over a public school choral group turned away from a Georgia VA Hospital at Christmas has taken a new twist. The Augusta Chronicle is reporting today that the hospital has a “caroling deal” in the works that would limit schools to singing only non-religious Christmas carols at the hospital.

Five days before Christmas 2013 choral students from Alleluia Community School in Augusta were told they had to perform music other than what they prepared due to a five year old policy the hospital was enforcing that banned religious music in public areas. The story went viral as charges of first amendment abuses were levied in the media, resulting in a Congressional review of VA Christmas policies.

Amongst the songs the group tried to perform were Silent Night, Joy to the World and O Come All Ye Faithful.

“Military service veterans, male and female, represent people of all faiths,” hospital spokesman Brian Rothwell said in a statement. “It is out of respect for every faith that The Veterans Administration gives clear guidance on what ‘spiritual care’ is to be given and who is to give it.”

Alleluia Community School Principal Dan Funsch said he was sad to hear that the Veterans Affairs hospital’s “spiritual care” grants holiday exemption only to Frosty, Rudolph and the secular characters that make up the 12 Days of Christmas.

“This is not a religious proselytizing, evangelistic issue,” said Funsch, arguing that Christmas songs are broadcast during the holidays on area radio stations and in local retail outlets. “The song Joy to the World is as much a part of the holiday spirit as the Christmas tree.”

Funsch said the peculiar part of the policy is its recent enforcement.

Rothwell could not provide the date the VA’s ban on religious Christmas songs took effect, but Funsch said that in 2011 and 2012 his students were welcomed without hesitation at the Augusta VA’s Uptown campus as part of a yearly caroling the school does on its last day of classes before the holiday break.

This year, however, when they arranged to sing at the medical center downtown, an official from the hospital’s volunteer services division told a high school senior that he and his classmates could perform only secular songs because of policy.

Funsch said that because of time constraints and unfamiliarity with some of the songs provided by the VA, his high school students decided – on principle – to forgo this year’s caroling in hopes of finding a suitable location to sing their songs next year.

The principal said his students were disappointed with the decision but glad to see their administrators stood up for what they felt was right.

Funsch added that his middle school students were allowed to sing at Georgia Regents Medical Center with no problems.

Other VA hospitals in other parts of the country reported other incidents of Christmas censorship, supposedly because of the policy. A Dallas area VA hospital refused Christmas cards from kids because they used the words “Merry Christmas” and “God Bless You”.

The Congressional VA Committee was besieged with complaints but the apparent “negotiations” limiting public performance of religious-themed Christmas music only points to more of the same in VA hospitals and threatens to broaden the issue and the controversy during the 2014 Christmas season.

It is curious to us that two public institutions oppose each other in this instance — an interesting issue that will likely, someday, end up in front of a judge.

Christmas Carol Condom Ad Ruled Not Offensive

Christmas Carol Condom Ad Ruled Not Offensive

The advertising authority in New Zealand has ruled that a commercial poster featuring the words of the Christmas carol “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” where all the o’s were replaced with condoms was NOT offensive.

C da Silva complained to the authority that an AIDS Foundation “Love your Condom” poster emblazoned with lyrics from the Christian song “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” was offensive.

“I am not opposed to having ads about using condoms and I understand tongue and cheek … but this is a bit much.” the complaint said. “I saw a poster on Ponsonby Rd this morning and I found it highly offensive.”

The authority said the poster was clearly identifiable as an AIDS Foundation “Love your Condom” advertisement, and advocated an important public health message about safe sex and the reduction of HIV infection in New Zealand.

While some might have found the humour in bad taste, the poster did not reach the threshold of causing serious or widespread offence in the community, the authority found.

The advertisement met the required “due sense of social responsibility” and there was no apparent breach of the Advertising Codes.

The authority ruled there were no grounds to proceed.