Ban on religious songs is fair for all
Editorial | Undue attention on Christmas celebration exactly the point
The Bordentown Regional School District has come under fire for it decision to ban religious songs from winter concert performances in its elementary schools. And by “come under fire,” we mean by the conservative right. And by the conservative right, we mean those only concerned with Christmas.
Among the people that the school district apparently pissed off is Alliance Defending Freedom, which describes itself as a “legal ministry” — the only one of its kind in the country. The ADF wrote a letter to the school district alleging that their ban is unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment rights. The letter continued to cite the right of students to have Christmas songs in schools. The ADF’s press release is headlined “NJ school district bans religious Christmas carols.” This intentional omission of the ban on other religion’s religious songs and the excessive attention on the celebration of Christmas rather than on all holidays reflects the problem that the Bordentown Regional School District is right in trying to resolve.
The dominant narrative of holiday celebration in our society is Christmas. While overlooking all other religious holidays, the notion that Christmas songs should be an unquestionable norm in public schools is troubling — especially in the United States where there is no official religion. The school district is actually exerting this ban on all religious songs, not just Christmas ones, but that hasn’t stopped media outlets from deeming its ban — and a similar one of many other school districts — as a “war on Christmas.” But if we’re not also singing Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and all other religious holiday songs that are available, then what “war” are they actually waging?
Christmas is arguably the most widely celebrated religious — and even cultural — holiday in the world. The declaration that there is now a “war on Christmas” in our country is senseless. We think Christmas will be just fine.
The ADF’s letter defends religious Christmas songs by citing a federal appellate court’s decision that religious songs are okay as long as they are “presented objectively as a part of a secular program of education.” In this regard, the ADF completely discredits its point. Winter concerts are not an educational program for students, nor are religious Christmas songs presented objectively if the concerts do not equally include other religious songs as well.
The letter also states that under the First Amendment, schools must “[refrain] from demonstrating an unconstitutional hostility toward songs with religious origins.” The decision to ban all religious songs is in no way hostile to one religion or another. It is rather upholding the equal treatment of all Americans regardless of religion.
The fact that the headlines surfacing against such bans are only concerned with their effect on the celebration of Christmas directly proves the point. All other religious holidays deserve to be acknowledged as well. Banning religious Christmas songs is a school district’s modest way of establishing some equilibrium in our otherwise-contradictory society. Secularism should be all or nothing — either all religions are represented or none of them are.