ADL Offers Schools And Government Guidance For Negotiating The 'December Dilemma'
New York, NY, November 28, 2007 … Every December schools and local governments are confronted with the question of how to approach the holidays without favoring one religious faith over another or making some feel uncomfortable because their religious background is different from others.
To help negotiate the "December Dilemma," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) provides public schools and government institutions nationwide with materials and information on how to keep public recognition of the December holidays respectful, welcoming and constitutionally permissible.
"Schools and governments can acknowledge the December holidays – Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa – so long as it is done with sensitivity, caring and respect for all members of the community," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Schools and governments have the responsibility to ensure that they maintain respectful, open and welcoming environments for all of their community members. Whatever they do, they cannot favor one religion over another."
In letters sent to school districts nationwide and distributed through ADL's 30 regional offices, the League emphasizes the need for schools to be cautious in how they choose to employ religious symbols and teach about the holidays, and offers suggestions to help schools "comply with the United States Constitution and create a school environment that celebrates diversity by respecting differing points of view concerning religion." ADL also offers an online guide for schools, The December Dilemma: December Holiday Guidelines for Public Schools.
The general rule, the letter explains: "When a school does choose to acknowledge the December holidays, it is essential that the school must never appear to endorse religion … or one particular religious faith over another."
Likewise, in a letter to government institutions and town officials responsible for holiday displays, ADL offers guidance on the placement of religious displays on public property. The letter comes with an easy-to-use chart, "Quick Guide to Religious Displays," explaining which types of displays are acceptable and not acceptable during the holiday season.
Some of the matters highlighted and explained in detail by ADL include:
The difference between practicing religion and teaching about religion;
Guidelines for holiday assemblies, concerts and other public school activities where religious themes or music may be performed;
Choosing appropriate holiday symbols to decorate school grounds -- among them Christmas trees, menorahs, reindeers and snowmen;
Choosing appropriate holiday activities;
Understanding what can – and cannot – be displayed on government property.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.