A Florida school board has just canceled all religious observances and holidays — including Yom Kippur, Good Friday and the day after Easter. They are now stripped from the school’s official calendar for 2006. The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida has voted to do this, but why?
The controversy apparently began when a Muslim requested an official school holiday for an Islamic holy day, which marks the end of Ramadan. With counsel from their attorney, the school board decided to just to take away all recognition of all holidays, rather than any other alternative. The Muslim group seeking the new holiday is concerned that the Christian and Jewish children will blame Muslim students for losing their holiday.
This is not the only place where this is occurring…
- A school in Saginaw, Michigan, has prohibited a student from passing out candy canes containing religious messages.
- South Orange-Maplewood school district in New Jersey just decided to ban instrumental Christmas carols at school-sponsored holiday concerts.
- The school board of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, initially removed “Silent Night” from an elementary school program after a parent complained, but later reversed itself. (The program already included songs celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.)
- In Bossier Parish, Louisiana, there was a lawsuit involving a school nativity scene and the performance of Christmas carols.
Does the Constitution require this? No!
The U.S. Constitution simply prohibits the “establishment” (or “endorsement”) of religion by a government. Courts have used the “reasonable person” standard — essentially, whether a reasonable person would feel a religious display or expression constituted an “endorsement” of religion. Courts have ruled that simply recognizing the religious tradition of a particular holiday does violate the law.
We were intended to enjoy freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.
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