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Press ReleaseReligious Freedom, Church-State
ADL Offers Schools Guidance For Negotiating The 'December Dilemma'

New York, NY, December 5, 2006 Every December schools and teachers are confronted with the question of how to approach the holidays without favoring one religious faith over another or making some students feel uncomfortable because their religious background is different from others.

To help negotiate the "December Dilemma", the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has provided public schools and public institutions nationwide with materials and information on how to keep public recognition of the December holidays constitutionally permissible.

"Our goal is to help schools and governments handle the holidays in a manner that is open, welcoming and constitutional," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  "This is about much more than the law.  It is about ensuring that all members of our communities, whether a religious minority or not, feel welcome in their schools and other public institutions."

As a strong advocate for separation of church and state, and longtime defender of the religious freedom of all Americans, ADL routinely provides advice and guidelines to help schools successfully negotiate the court limitations and common questions and concerns that arise as a result of the December holidays.  At this time of year, the League fields more requests on church-state issues than at any other period.

"This year, as in years past, there are some who maintain that the Christmas holiday is being 'banned' from the schools and from public displays, but this is not the case at all," said Mr. Foxman.  "In fact, the use of 'Merry Christmas,' 'Happy Hanukkah,' and 'Happy Kwanzaa' and 'Happy Holidays' are all perfectly acceptable."

ADL's 30 Regional Offices across the country have been in contact with school district officials, urging them to be cautious in how they employ religious symbols and teach about the holidays.  Letters have been sent to many school districts explaining how they can comply with the U.S. Constitution while "creating a school environment that celebrates diversity by respecting differing points of view concerning religion."

The League has also reached out to government officials responsible for public buildings and courthouse displays.

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;
  • Choosing appropriate holiday activities
  • Understanding what can and cannot be displayed on city 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.

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The December Dilemma: Holiday Guidelines for Public Schools
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2006 Anti-Defamation League