Court to Hear Christmas Music Arguments

It has been four years in coming but a New Jersey school district is going to face the music for banning Christmas music (even instrumentals).

The case surrounds the family of acclaimed orchestra conductor Michael Stratechuk of Maplewood, N.J., who began the fight on behalf of his school-age sons, Kurt and Karl.

The South Orange-Maplewood School District has been under fire since prohibiting all Christmas music that even hinted something religious, including instrumental songs.

Stratechuk says before the 2004-2005 school year, the district allowed religious music including Christmas carols. But that changed when the district adopted a strict policy banning all religious music.

“Rather than try to respond to all the various religions and try to balance them, it’s best to stay away from that and simply have a nonreligious tone to them and have more of a seasonal tone,” then-Superintendent Peter Horoshak told the Newark Star-Ledger in 2004.

A legal document filed in the case states, “According to Stratechuk, the policy conveys a government sponsored message of disapproval and hostility toward religion (specifically Christianity) and deprives his children of the right to receive information and ideas.”

The conductor added it “conveys the message that Christianity is disfavored.”

Going to bat for the Stratechuk family is the Thomas More Law Center and the American Catholic Lawyers Association, basing their arguments on the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.

Robert Muise, the Thomas More attorney who will argue the case, said, “The Constitution prohibits school districts from adopting policies that disfavor religion. Contrary to popular myth, our Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any. The school district’s policy is plainly unconstitutional.”

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