The purpose of the Christmas holiday is to celebrate the birth of Christ. Yet, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the Maple-South Orange school district’s ban on all religious Christmas music including instrumentals, which had been part of the school district Christmas program for years-until one parent complained.
In yesterday’s ruling the Third Circuit approved the school policy that prohibits Christmas selections such as “Silent Night, ” “Joy to the World, ” “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, ” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” However, the Third Circuit approved concert selections of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan challenged the school policy in federal court on the grounds the school district’s ban on religious music conveys a government-sponsored message of disapproval and hostility toward religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center observed, “Christmas is a national holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, not the birth of Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This ruling is another example of how the courts have tyrannically twisted the Establishment Clause as a weapon against Christians in the War on Christmas.”
However, the case is not over. Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney who handled the case, indicated he will ask the Third Circuit to rehear the case on both substantive and procedural errors. If denied, the Law Center will most likely appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court.
The Third Circuit opinion admitted the changing court view of Christmas: “Certainly, those of us who were educated in public schools remember holiday celebrations replete with Christmas carols and possibly Chanukah songs, to which no objections had been raised. Since then, the governing principles have been examined and defined with more particularity.”
A little history lesson.
“Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, not any one sect.”
House of Representatives Report delivered on March 27, 1854
The case was filed in 2004 by the Law Center and the American Catholic Lawyers Association, on behalf of Michael Stratechuk, who sued on his own and on behalf of his two school-age children on the grounds the policy is hostile to religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.
The New Jersey School District policy at issue in this case was previously featured in a book, The War On Christmas, by Fox News anchor, John Gibson.