Defending Christmas; Campaign Fights 'Censorship' of School Concerts

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Defending Christmas; Campaign Fights 'Censorship' of School Concerts


Byline: Emily Louise Zimbrick, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The December holiday season used to be simple - when Americans could call it Christmas without offending anyone. A 2000 Gallup poll found that 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas but that such festivities have become more problematic in recent years.

The "December dilemma" over how much religious meaning can be allowed in public acknowledgement of the holiday has turned into an all-out legal battle that pits baby Jesus against an army of elves, reindeer and singing Christmas trees.

Misconceptions about the "separation of church and state" complicate the issue, says a nonprofit legal organization that is fighting to keep the Christ in Christmas.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has signed up more than 700 lawyers to defend the public celebration of Christmas this year.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has led the campaign against the holiday, says ADF President Alan Sears.

This year, ADF is leading the first national effort to "stand up to ACLU's censorship of Christmas," said Mr. Sears, who served as assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration before going into private practice. "The ACLU continues in legal terrorism by raging war against 96 percent of Americans who want to celebrate Christmas."

The Gallup survey found that 90 percent of Americans are familiar with "the reason of the season" - the Christian faith's commemoration of the birth of Jesus - and three out of four Americans say there is not enough emphasis on the religious basis for the holiday.

Yet there is no peace on earth or good will toward men for the Scrooges who say "bah, humbug" to Christmas.

In rural Elizabeth, Colo., the Colorado ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have threatened to sue Elbert County Charter School for refusing to cut religious songs from its holiday concert.

Bruce DeBoskey, regional director of the ADL, said a Jewish family expressed concern that "religion has taken dominance in the school" and that "the children felt unwelcome and unsafe."

Principal Les Gray said the parents objected to "any and all Christian references in the program."

"What is absolutely crystal clear is the ACLU has an agenda of radical secularization of all institutions," said Barry Arrington, legal counsel for the school. "Schools should know they don't have to buckle under the bullying of the ACLU."

But the ADL's Mr. DeBoskey said, "In no circumstances are we attempting to censor Christmas. ... The idea of separation of church and state is to let religion flourish."

In Hanover Township, N.J., some parents were angered to learn that no religious songs would be included in holiday concerts at their public schools this year.

Salvatore Sansone, school superintendent in Hanover Township, said officials worried about "what was perceived as imbalance of religious music that would be counterproductive to children. …

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Defending Christmas; Campaign Fights 'Censorship' of School Concerts
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