If Easter is controversial, so is Christmas. The chancellor of the New York City Department of Education prohibited the display of Nativity scenes in New York City schools during Christmas, but allowed displays of the Jewish menorah and the Islamic star and crescent. The excuse, of course, was "diversity" and "multiculturalism"-"to promote understanding and respect for the diverse beliefs and customs relating to our community's observance of the winter holiday." But the most important cultural institution shaping Western civilization and the lives of these very students is verboten; indeed, the city officials even refer, in Orwellian language, to "the winter holiday," which is not what most of these students will be celebrating, rather than Christmas. One principal, in accordance with the New York chancellor's policy, sent out a memo urging teachers to bring Jewish, Islamic, and Kwanzaa symbols to school, but references to Christianity were conspicuously absent. Again, the celebrated virtues of tolerance and diversity are accorded to all but Christians.
School officials will often agree to allow Christmas trees, which have become secular as much as religious symbols (according to the Supreme Court), but emphatically refuse Nativity depictions. Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, said, "When you disallow the Nativity scene by calling it religious and allow other symbols categorized as religious, then you are underlying the fact [that] it becomes a less favorable religion ... [and it] shows a callous indifference and hostility toward Christians during one of their holiest seasons This policy relegates Christians to secondclass citizens." New York's discrimination has outraged many Christians, including Catholics. "It is outrageous that New York City public school officials allow some religious symbols in the schools every December while banning others," said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. "Catholics are sick and tired of being discriminated against by bureaucrats who tell us we should be satisfied with a Christmas tree in the schools."
Repeatedly, in the name of inclusiveness and tolerance, Christmas is targeted for special discrimination. In Frederick County, Maryland, a school employee was barred from distributing Christmas cards with a Christian message. A fourth grader in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, was forbidden from handing out religious Christmas cards to his classmates. And two parents whose families don't celebrate Christmas complained when a Canandaigua Primary School teacher near Rochester, New York, asked students to bring items from home for a class Christmas party. In response, the eagerly compliant principal issued a memo advising that it is more appropriate to use secular words such as "holiday" than "Christmas." That memo in turn caused rebellion from Christian parents in the community, which prompted the district superintendent, in a refreshing display of courage, to issue a superseding memo clarifying that the term "Christmas" would not be banned.
In Portland, Oregon, one student's mother complained that the local public school had actually made her son feel guilty about celebrating Christmas. A school district in California has forbidden teachers to utter the word "Christmas" in class and instructed them not to wear Christmas jewelry. One of the teachers, who had conducted a classroom program called "Christmas Around the World" for more than two decades, was reportedly so discouraged she considered retiring.
Elsewhere around the country, school districts have discontinued references to "Christmas break" in favor of the politically correct and "inoffensive" "winter break" or "holiday break." So radioactive is Christmas that a New Jersey third grade teacher, under pressure from the ACLU, canceled a class field trip to see the play "A Christmas Carol" on Broadway. The ACLU contended that the play excluded certain aspects of the community (non-Christians). Instead, the teacher took the class to "The Great Train Race."
Even in the Bible Belt, such anti-Christian discrimination abounds. In a Tupelo, Mississippi, elementary school, children had to sit through an assembly where Kwanzaa was celebrated, Chanukah was taught, and students were led to chant "Celebrate Kwanzaa." In contrast, in the Christmas hymns that were permitted, officials removed any references to Jesus Christ or specifically Christian content and renamed the Christmas tree a "giving tree." A more draconian restriction on Christmas songs occurred at Pattison Elementary School in Katy, Texas. Pattison not only banned the singing of Christmas songs, but threatened grade reductions for students who refused to participate in singing songs of other faiths.
One story illustrates the impact this anti-Christmas attitude is having on children. During the 2002 Christmas season in Scottsdale, Arizona, a man was singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with his five-year-old daughter, who interrupted to insist that they sing "We wish you a happy holiday," because, she explained, one of her teachers doesn't celebrate Christmas. A few days later, when attending the school concert, the father discovered that indeed there were no references to Christmas or Christ-or any other hints of Christian meaning in any of the songs. This obsession not to offend is remarkable, considering that it's hard to comprehend how the celebration in song of a holiday for one religious group (a very large one at that) would threaten those of other religions. The spirit of the season is, to borrow a term, inclusive, not exclusive. But even more noteworthy is that according to a 2000 Gallup Poll some ninety-six percent of Americans celebrate Christmas.
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