Guidance on Displays for the December Holidays

Acknowledging the December holiday season is important in many public schools and communities. However, religious displays on public property – whether physical or virtual spaces - can be deeply divisive, making members of religious minority groups feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. It’s important to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of all members of our religiously diverse society.

The body of law on this issue is complex and not always predictable. For example, from a legal perspective, a Christmas tree is not a religious symbol, but a crèche or nativity scene is. The underlying principle, though, is fairly simple: a public school or local government must never, in whatever it does, appear to endorse or disapprove of one particular religion or religion in general.

Of course, what “endorsement” or “disapproval” means in practice depends heavily on the context of the display. For a more detailed explanation of these issues, please review “ADL’s Quick Guide to Displays for the December Holidays” found on this webpage.