On Monday, September 14th at 10:00 a.m., Robert Muise, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center, will urge the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia to reverse a lower court ruling that upheld a New Jersey school district’s policy that banned the performance of religious music in the district’s public schools. The public is encouraged to attend.
The school district’s ban was specifically aimed at preventing Christmas music, including simple instrumentals, during the traditional year-end holiday concerts. The school district had allowed the performance of traditional Christmas music during these concerts for more than 60 years. However, in 2004, this long-standing tradition came to an abrupt end, prompting a national outcry and this federal lawsuit.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, commented, “This blatant anti-Christian policy is yet another example of the total and militant hostility that many public schools have towards Christians and Christmas.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Michael Stratechuk, who sued on his own and on behalf of his two children, who are students in the New Jersey school district. According to the lawsuit, the school district’s ban on religious music conveys the impermissible, government-sponsored message of disapproval of and hostility toward religion in violation of the Establishment Clause, and it deprives the Stratechuk children the right to receive information and ideas, an inherent corollary of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
Robert Muise, the attorney who will be arguing the case for the Law Center, commented, “Christmas is a national holiday, and religious music in the public schools is one of the rich traditions of this season. Those that are hostile to these traditions hide behind the mantle of ‘tolerance, ’ only to promote intolerance. We learn to understand and respect traditions, customs, and beliefs not by being offended or threatened by the traditions of others, but by understanding the meaning of such traditions and why they have the capacity to inspire.”
The New Jersey school district policy at issue in this case was featured in a book, The War On Christmas , by Fox News anchor, John Gibson.