First Amendment Center Offers Guidelines for the "December Dilemma"

November 16, 2003

Source: First Amendment Center

On November 16, 2003 the First Amendment Center's scholar Charles Haynes offered the following suggestions for schools struggling to create Christmas holiday programs without violating the separation of church and state." Before planning December holiday concerts or other activities in a public school, choral directors and administrators should ask themselves three simple questions: 1. Do we have a clear educational purpose? Under the First Amendment, learning about religious holidays is an appropriate educational goal – celebrating or observing religious holidays is not. 2. Will any student or parent be made to feel like an outsider by the concert or activity? Most parents and students are fine with learning about religious traditions – as long as the school’s approach is academic, not devotional. It is never appropriate for public schools to proselytize. 3. Is our overall curriculum balanced and fair? December shouldn’t be the only time sacred music pops up in the curriculum. Students should learn about religious music from various traditions at other times of the year."