The principal at Bellview Elementary in Ashland, Oregon has received this letter from the folks at Liberty Counsel instructing her that it’s perfectly appropriate to allow a Christmas tree at school. The principal took down the school’s Giving Tree, listeners to the Victoria Taft Show Friday will know, because a parent complained that the tree was a religious symbol. In its place she put two snowmen. This is what the Liberty Counsel said of the old switcheroo:
…the Establishment Clause also prohibits government from being hostile to religion. Selecting one legal holiday for negative treatment and special restrictions solely because it has some relgious aspect clearly demonstrates hostility to religion, generally, and Christianity, particularly, thereby violating the Establishment Clause. You have stated that the Christmas tree was taken down because it was a religious symbol and you did not want to make any students feel unwelcome. Such viewpoint discrimination can not withstand Constitutional scrutiny.
We write to request that you immediately replace the snowmen with the original display, the Chrstimas tree.
The Liberty Counsel also sent the Ashland school principal a legal memorandum on what’s acceptable in the public square and schools at Christmas (here). The following is part of a summary of what’s acceptable,
Public schools are not religion-free zones. Classroom discussion of the religious aspects of
the holidays is permissible. 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 songs. Indeed, the majority of the songs may be religious so long as the
performance also includes secular holiday songs. If the students select their own songs independent of the direction of school officials, then there is no requirement that the songs include secular numbers.
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 don religious jewelry.