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Press ReleaseReligious Freedom/Church-State
"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 Amendment."

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 nation’s 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, ABC’s of Religion in the Public Schools.

Related Link(s):
Red Arrow  "December Dilemma"
Red Arrow  Separation of Church and State: A First Amendment Primer
Red Arrow  ABC’s of Religion in the Public Schools

Editor’s 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.

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1998 Anti-Defamation League