"December Dilemma" Challenges Separation of Church and State
New York, NY, December 14, 1998
The holiday season brings with it the
"December Dilemma" issues of religious expression and the separation of
church and state. Concerns about public displays of religious symbols and the focus on
holiday celebrations in public schools are relayed to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in
large numbers at this time of year.
"The separation of church and state goes to the very heart of American democracy
and to our history as a pluralistic and tolerant society," said Howard P. Berkowitz,
ADL National Chairman. "Of particular concern is religious neutrality in public
schools and protecting the rights of religious minorities guaranteed under the First
In its outreach to school officials nationwide, ADL offers guidance in creating an
environment that is sensitive to religious minorities during the December holiday season,
emphasizing the importance of recognizing that public schools are not the proper place for
religious celebrations or ceremonies.
In letters to the school superintendents, ADL said, "Because of their young age,
students are particularly impressionable and susceptible to pressure to conform. Further,
many schoolchildren are members of minority religions or have been raised in non-religious
homes. The nations public schools must be hospitable to students from a vast range
of backgrounds students of all faiths and students of no faith. By choosing to
celebrate certain religious holidays, schools run the risk of sending the message that
they favor certain faiths over others."
Among ADL materials about this issue is
Separation of Church and State: A First Amendment Primer
and a full-color poster, ABCs of Religion in the Public Schools.
Editors note: To receive ADL materials or to arrange an interview with an
ADL expert on the separation of church and state, religious symbols in the public domain
or the observance of religious holidays in public schools, please call the ADL Media
Relations department at (212) 885-7749.
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.