Liberty Counsel has launched its seventeenth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign which is designed to educate and, when necessary, litigate to ensure that religious viewpoints are not censored from Christmas and holiday themes.
In Indiana, Liberty Counsel is currently representing Jackson County and Fulton County in lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The atheist group seeks to remove a lighted Nativity scene from the Jackson County Courthouse Christmas light display, which includes a large lighted Santa Claus, sleigh with Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and a group of Christmas carolers. The ACLU is also attempting to remove a Nativity scene on the Fulton County Courthouse lawn that has been displayed each year since the 1980’s. That display includes a Santa house, Santa Claus, lighted reindeer, a snowman, and a candlestick.
Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter in November 2018 to the superintendent of Elkhorn Public Schools in Nebraska when the principal instructed teachers that “we are not to be doing any Christmas or holiday-specific themed activities with students” and issued a comprehensive list of “not acceptable” practices which included Santas, Christmas trees, “Elf on the Shelf,” Christmas music and movies, candy canes, reindeer, homemade ornament gifts, and red and green items. The school district responded to Liberty Counsel’s demand letter and promptly reversed the principal’s unconstitutional directive.
Liberty Counsel continues monitoring cases across the country where there is intimidation by officials and groups to remove the celebration of Christmas in public and private sectors. These threats also include senior living centers that prohibit residents from singing Christmas carols, public schools that ban students from wearing the Christmas colors of red and green, school officials who censor religious words from Christmas carols, and retailers which profit from Christmas while pretending it does not exist. Liberty Counsel has successfully educated and reversed these anti-Christmas actions in all of these situations.
Classroom discussion of the religious aspects of the holidays is permissible in public schools. A holiday display in a classroom may include a Nativity scene or other religious imagery so long as the context also includes secular symbols. A choral performance may include religious and secular holiday songs. If the students select their own songs independent of the direction of school officials, there is no requirement that the songs include secular selections. Students may distribute religious Christmas cards to their classmates during noninstructional time, before or after school, or between classes. If the students are not required to dress in uniform, then they may wear clothing with religious words or symbols or religious jewelry.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The First Amendment prohibits censorship based on religious viewpoint. Publicly sponsored Nativity scenes on public property are constitutional, especially when the display includes other secular symbols of the holiday. Celebrating or acknowledging Christmas is legal on public property, and references to God or Jesus should not be censored. Nothing prohibits public schools from teaching objectively about Christmas or other holidays with religious significance, from displaying religious and secular Christmas symbols side-by-side or singing sacred and secular Christmas songs together,” said Staver.