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  Religious Freedom
December Dilemma

Holiday Assemblies and Other Public School Activities


Introduction
Religion in the Classroom
Holiday Assemblies
Performing Religious Music
Holiday Displays
The study of religious holidays may also include "more than mere classroom instruction." 11 For instance, public performances or presentations of music, literature and art are permissible, as long as they are "presented objectively as part of a secular program of education." 12 A permissible purpose for such a program may be advancing students' knowledge of society's cultural and religious heritage. 13

However, religious music, literature, art or other religious activities should not dominate school activities. These activities are permissible only if they make up a small portion of a school-sponsored event. For instance, it may be permissible to have students act out a play which contains one scene where a family is shown opening presents on Christmas morning. However, school-sponsorship of a play about the birth of Jesus would be impermissible because such performances are inherently affirmations of a certain religious point of view.

School-sponsored activities should also focus on more than one religion and religious holiday. Depicting a diversity of beliefs and customs is important to teaching public school students about religion and culture. It also helps to ensure that public schools remain neutral and do not promote or denigrate any particular denomination or custom.

It is also important to provide students the opportunity to choose not to participate in activities they find offensive to their religious sensibilities. 14 School administrators must be sure that students have the option to make this choice and not be forced to participate out of embarrassment or peer pressure.

 

 

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