(RNS) “Silent Night” and other religious songs will remain off the program at holiday concerts in one New Jersey school district—and possibly others across the country—after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a school ban on religious holiday music.
By deciding Monday (Oct. 4) not to hear the case, the high court ended a six-year legal battle that started when parent Michael Stratechuk sued the School District of South Orange and Maplewood over a policy that barred religious songs at public concerts.
“There’s nothing more, short of the school district changing its policy. There’s no other legal avenue to take,” Stratechuk’s attorney, Robert J. Muise of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., said.
“Religion has not been banned totally in schools but we’re headed in that direction,” he said Tuesday. “The South Orange-Maplewood Schools are in the forefront of taking that step.”
Rest of the story here.
Why would we want non-Christians singing our songs anyway? One, we do a better job. Two, we do it in church. And three, we sing them in their proper season, not November.
Methinks you miss the point of joyfully singing Christmas carols in public schools between October 31st and the Christmas break. My Jewish friends sing carols with us at the top of their voices. And one doesn’t have to be Jewish to heartily sing Hava Nagila either. Christmas has many meanings. We Christians celebrate the birth of Christ the Savior. My non-practicing, culturally Catholic friends sing carols because it’s a joyful season, with or without Jesus. I even have Muslim friends who greet me Merry Christmas, as I greet them on Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. On the feast of Diwali, I greet my Hindu friends “Happy Diwali.” My point is that we can all celebrate–in varying degrees of merriment–each others’ feasts without feeling like they are imposed on us, thus urging us to resort to having their celebration legally banned in public spaces. Irish or not, (almost) everybody sings Irish songs on March 17th. “Sleep in heavenly peace” is the harmless message of Silent Night. It’s OK to say “Merry Christmas,” rather than “Happy Holidays” and it’s OK to sing “Silent Night.”
Removing tongue from cheek …
Well, I don’t think Christians are harmed one bit by this. Christmas is so pervasive otherwise, especially economic Christmas, I’m not sure we’ve lost a tool for evangelization either.
But I think you are right, Vic, in that this is a loss of an opportunity for civility, friendship, and acquaintance with our brother and sister citizens. Chalk up a “W” for Glenn Beck and his ilk on all sides, and a “L” for the average teatotaling joe.
My wife teaches second grade in a public school district where roughly 1/4 of the students are Muslim, and growing. In years when they’ve done a secular “Christmas program” with Santa and friends, most of the Muslim students don’t participate. Most of them just quietly sit out, while someone makes an occasional comment that “it’s not our holiday, so we don’t observe it.”
In years when they have done a more generic “Winter program” most of the Muslim students have participated. As you can imagine, the Winter program generates a lot of controversy among the “keep Christ in Christmas” crowd.
These complainers want it both ways: to make Christmas an explicitly religious holiday while promoting it in the secular setting of a public school. I can imagine the mob scene that would result if the school announced a Ramadan program. Double standard?
People often only think of the First Amendment (Free Exercise vs Establishment Clauses) aspect, but there’s also the Fourteenth Amendment (Equal Protection Clause): whatever you want to permit re Christianity needs to be permitted to other belief systems – eg, Wicca, Occultism, et cet. Be careful what you prayer for…praise for Jesus can open the door for praise for Satan….
In its first year, “South Park” did a hilarious spin on this whole phenomenon: the non-denominational, non-offensive winter spectacular (featuring music by Philip Glass):
[n.b. Chef’s song “I wanna fa la la your la” is mature/PG13+ listening; fast forward through it.]
I remember that… “Hap-py, hap-py, happy… hap-py, hap-py, happy…”