Revisiting Myths About Public Schools and Christmas

November 27, 2015 | Posted in Religious Freedom | By

Last year we debunked seven myths about Christmas celebrations at public schools. Today we are revisiting those seven myths.

Seven Myths About Christmas and Public Schools

Adapted From a Fact Sheet Provided by Alliance Defending Freedom

Myth #1: Students are not allowed to sing religious Christmas carols in public schools.

Fact: During school activities, such as choir, Christmas programs, and other events in public schools, students can sing religious carols along with secular ones without offending the U.S. Constitution if the school has a secular purpose for including the religious songs; for example, advancing students’ knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage and the opportunity for students to perform a full range of music, poetry, and drama.

Myth #2: It is unconstitutional for school officials to refer to a school break as a “Christmas Holiday.”

Fact: The Supreme Court has acknowledged the government’s long-standing recognition of holidays with religious significance, such as Christmas. Congress has even proclaimed Christmas to be a legal public holiday.

Myth #3: It is unconstitutional for public schools to close on religious holidays, such as Christmas and Good Friday.

Fact: The Establishment Clause doesn’t prohibit state officials from choosing a religious day as the day for a legal holiday.

Myth #4: Public schools have to recognize all religious holidays if they recognize Christmas.

Fact: A school does not have a legal duty to recognize every religious holiday simply because an existing school holiday coincides with a particular religious celebration.

Myth #5: It is constitutional for public schools to ban teachers and students from saying “Merry Christmas.”

Fact: The Supreme Court has stated that teachers and students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Guidelines issued by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley (who served under President Clinton) state “students therefore have the same right to engage in…religious discussion during the school day as they do to engage in other comparable activity.” Teachers have the right to greet students with the words “Merry Christmas,” in spite of their role as agents of the state. Saying a simple greeting that people commonly use in December does not violate the Establishment Clause.

Myth #6: Public schools cannot have students study the religious origins of Christmas and read the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ.

Fact: The Supreme Court has stated that “the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.” The term “study” has been defined to include more than mere classroom instruction; public concerts and performances may be a legitimate part of secular study.

Myth #7: Public schools cannot display religious symbols.

Fact: The display of a nativity scene is constitutional if it is displayed for legitimate secular purposes, such as to celebrate the holiday and to depict the origins of the holiday. A public school is free to display a nativity scene among other forms of religious and secular seasonal expression.

Some Retailers Choosing to Honor Thanksgiving

November 25, 2015 | Posted in Thanksgiving | By

Two years ago today we asked whether or not we were witnessing the end of Thanksgiving as we know it. As stores began to announce plans to open on Thanksgiving Day in an effort to ramp up Black Friday sales and Christmas shopping, it seemed Thanksgiving might be shifting from a day for rest and time with family to a day of shopping.

This year several major retailers have announced plans to close on Thanksgiving in honor of the holiday. The Christian Science Monitor writes that Apple, T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, Marshalls, Pier 1 Imports, REI, and Barnes & Noble all will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods–all three of which are owned by the same parent company–have even gone so far as to launch an ad campaign about reclaiming the holidays. You can see one of their ads below.

As we wrote recently, research shows a majority of Americans still see Thanksgiving as a day for giving thanks to God and spending time with family.

Like I said two years ago, I’ve never seen a Norman Rockwell painting of a family spending Thanksgiving in the checkout line of a big-box store. This week, I hope you and your family will take a break from the hustle and bustle to enjoy quality time together.

Whether it’s playing football in the backyard or listing your blessings around the dinner table, take a few hours to celebrate and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Urge AR Congressional Delegation to Recognize Christians as Genocide Victims

November 24, 2015 | Posted in Current Events | By

According to reports by an investigative journalist at Yahoo News and by Nina Shea at National Review Online, the Obama Administration may move in the next few weeks to designate ISIS’s violence against Yazidis and others in Iraq as genocide; the genocide designation, however, will not be applied to Christians even though they have faced equal violence and persecution at the hands of ISIS.

Shea writes,

“Yazidis, according to the story by investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, are going to be officially recognized as genocide victims, and rightly so. Yet Christians, who are also among the most vulnerable religious minority groups that have been deliberately and mercilessly targeted for eradication by ISIS, are not. This is not an academic matter. A genocide designation would have significant policy implications for American efforts to restore property and lands taken from the minority groups and for offers of aid, asylum, and other protections to such victims. Worse, it would mean that, under the Genocide Convention, the United States and other governments would not be bound to act to suppress or even prevent the genocide of these Christians.”

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum writes that more than 800,000 people in Iraq’s Nineveh province were forced from their homes by ISIS last year; ISIS militants “kidnapped thousands, and killed hundreds, likely thousands, of people. In less than three months [ISIS] decimated millenia-old communities…Now almost no members of the minority groups [ISIS] attacked live in Nineveh province.”

This is significant, because the plains of Nineveh were once home to Iraqi Christians; in fact, Nineveh held one of the oldest Christian communities on earth. ISIS is systematically executing Christians it finds in Iraq and Syria. If that isn’t genocide, I do not know what is.

Americans continue to disagree about whether or not foreign refugees should enter the U.S., but let’s not overlook the obvious by failing to call the violence these refugees face what it is: Genocide. I think we can all agree the U.S. government ought to be honest with itself and with other nations about what ISIS is doing.

Below is information you can use to contact Arkansas’ two U.S. Senators and Arkansas’ Congressional delegates. Please send them a message politely asking them to ensure the federal government designates all ethnic and religious groups who are victims of ISIS violence as victims of genocide–including Christians.

U.S. Senator John Boozman

220px-John_Boozman,_official_portrait,_112th_CongressLittle Rock Office:
1401 W. Capitol Ave., Plaza F
Little Rock, AR 72201
Phone: (501) 372-7153
Fax: (501) 372-7163

D.C. Office:
141 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4843
Fax: (202) 228-1371

Click Here to Email U.S. Senator Boozman


U.S. Senator Tom Cotton

Tom_Cotton_official_Senate_photoLittle Rock Office:
11809 Hinson Road
Suite 100
Little Rock, AR 72212

Mailing Address:
PO Box 25216
Little Rock, AR 72221
Phone: (501) 223-9081
Fax: (501) 223-9105

D.C. Office:
124 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2353

Click Here to Email U.S. Senator Cotton

U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford (AR District 1)

Rick_Crawford,_Official_Portrait,_112th_CongressJonesboro Office:
2400 Highland Drive, Suite 300
Jonesboro, AR 72401
Phone: (870) 203-0540
Fax: (870) 203-0542

D.C. Office:
1711 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4076
Fax: (202) 225-5602

Click Here to Email Congressman Crawford



U.S. Congressman French Hill (AR District 2)

French_Hill_official_photoLittle Rock Office:
1501 N. University Ave.
Suite 150
Little Rock, AR 72207
Phone: (501) 324-5941
Fax: (501) 324-6029

D.C. Office:
1229 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2506
Fax: (202) 225-5903

Click Here to Email U.S. Congressman Hill



U.S. Congressman Steve Womack (AR District 3)

675px-Steve_Womack,_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress_-_Hi_ResRogers Office:
3333 Pinnacle Hills, Suite 120
Rogers, Arkansas 72758
Phone: (479) 464-0446
Fax: (479) 464-0063

D.C. Office:
1119 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4301
Fax: (202) 225-5713

Click Here to Email U.S. Congressman Womack



U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR District 4)

599px-Bruce_Westerman_official_congressional_photoHot Springs Office:
101 Reserve St.
Suite 200
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Phone: (501) 609-9796
Fax: (501) 609-9887

D.C. Office:
130 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3772
Fax: (202) 225-1314

Click Here to Email U.S. Congressman Westerman