N.J. school district in for fight over banning religious Christmas songs

Alliance for Defending Freedom, a national law firm that specializes in religious cases, is warning a New Jersey school district that the “rich and wonderful diversity” of its students includes Christianity, too.

In a replay of a controversy that rocked a Wisconsin school community two weeks ago, the superintendent of Bordentown Regional Schools, a short drive from the state capital of Trenton, issued a statement on Oct. 18, informing parents that children wouldn’t be performing Christmas carols at holiday concerts this year.

christmasmusic1030Under the heading “Winter Concert Information” (which is itself pretty disingenuous, since there’s really only one reason there’s a concert in the winter anyway, and it’s not New Jersey’s snowfalls), Superintendent Constance J. Bauer wrote:

“Recently some musical selections for the elementary winter concerts were questioned. The matter has been taken under review by the district solicitor, who issued an advisory letter …that religious music should not be part of the elementary program(s).

“It remains the District’s mission to celebrate the rich and wonderful diversity of our children and community and hope that the joy shared through our numerous winter programs will continue to be cherished part of your family traditions.”

That would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact that the main “cherished part” of “winter” family traditions for Christians happens to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ – that’s why there’s so much music about it (as opposed to, say, Olympic kerling).

And the law graciously allows public school districts to recognize that reality, according to the Alliance for Defending Freedom.

“Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to perform Christmas carols,” alliance attorney Matthew Sharp told the Christian Post.

“Courts have unanimously upheld their inclusion in school productions – even when songs deal with Christian themes that are naturally a part of the holiday.”

In a letter to Bauer and School Board President Lisa Kay Hartmann, the alliance wrote: “Federal courts have acknowledged that the vast majority of high-quality choral music is religious in nature. The law thus clearly recognizes that ‘[a] position of neutrality towards religion must allow choir directors to recognize the fact that most choral music is religious’ in nature.”

The letter gave the school district until Nov. 1 to respond.

The Alliance for Defending Freedom has a track record of taking legal actions the distance when it comes to disputes between faith and the law. In a New Mexico case in August, for instance, it went all the way to the state Supreme Court to defend a photographer who declined to photograph a gay wedding ceremony.

In the Wisconsin case, a move by a school district to ban religious music at “winter” concerts ran into so much opposition that the decision was overturned and the traditional program reinstated.

If something similar doesn’t happen in Bordentown, it’s a good chance this case will be showing up in the courts, too.

HT: The Blaze

Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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