Attorney sound bites: Jeremy Tedesco | Kevin Theriot
– Alliance Defending Freedom sent a legal memo
and myth/fact sheet
Wednesday to more than 13,000 public school districts nationwide to explain the constitutionality of recognizing Christmas, participating in Christmas-related events, and allowing various forms of Christmas expression. The letter also offers free legal assistance to districts that need help.
“The Constitution allows and protects the celebration of Christmas in public schools,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “School districts do not have to remove religious references from their calendars. They should not violate the First Amendment by stifling student expression about Christmas. They can and should allow religious Christmas carols to be part of their school productions. And they can lawfully help impoverished children through community service projects, such as Operation Christmas Child.”
Last year, a South Carolina charter school reportedly cancelled its participation in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, a toy drive for needy children, after a humanist group threatened the school with legal action. School districts in Wisconsin and South Carolina that wrongly censored Christmas carols in school productions changed their positions in response to public outcry and letters from ADF explaining that the inclusion of religious carols is permissible.
“Many school officials mistakenly believe such expression would violate the ‘separation of church and state’ – a phrase often misused in connection with the Establishment Clause,” the ADF memo explains. “As a result, school officials across our nation – whether intentionally or from being misinformed – have denied students and teachers their constitutional rights of religious speech and expression under the guise that the Constitution requires them to do so.”
“No court has ever ruled that the Constitution requires school officials to censor Christmas carols, eliminate all references to Christmas, or silence those who celebrate Christmas,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “On the contrary, school officials tread on dangerous legal ground if they stifle the religious expression of students with regard to Christmas. As in previous years, we hope the materials we are providing to school districts will clear up the misinformation that has existed about this for far too long.”
A December 2013 Pew Research poll found that 9 in 10 Americans say they celebrate Christmas. A December 2011 Rasmussen poll found that 79 percent of American adults believe public schools should celebrate religious holidays.
- Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh), Theriot (TAIR'-ee-oh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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