New York, NY, November 26, 2012 … In an effort to help public schools and other government institutions manage sensitive issues raised by the December holiday season - often referred to as the “December Dilemma” - the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has once again provided material on appropriate holiday displays and practices to public school educators and other officials.
In letters sent to public school superintendents (PDF) and local government officials (PDF) nationwide, ADL provided information on how to respect religious diversity while observing the December holidays, as well as guidelines for complying with constitutional requirements.
ADL’s 30 regional offices across the country are maintaining contact with school district officials, urging them to be cautious in how they employ religious symbols and teach about the holidays. The letters forwarded to school districts throughout the state explain how they can adhere to the U.S. Constitution while “creating a school environment that celebrates diversity by respecting differing points of view concerning religion.”
“Many school districts continue to face complex issues and questions about how to properly acknowledge end-of-the-year holiday celebrations,” said Deborah Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. “Our goal is to not only help the various institutions comply with what is allowed constitutionally, but to provide guidance on creating a sustainable environment that celebrates diversity by respecting differing worldviews.”
Some of the issues highlighted and explained in detail by ADL include:
- The difference between practicing religion and teaching about religion
- Guidelines for holiday assemblies, concerts and other public school activities where religious themes or music may be performed
- Choosing appropriate holiday activities and symbols to decorate school grounds
ADL’s letter to government officials responsible for public buildings and courthouse displays offer guidance about the placement of suitable holiday symbols. A “Quick Guide to Religious Displays,” was provided which helps public officials to understand displays that are constitutionally appropriate during the holiday season.
For more information and a detailed explanation of the "December Dilemma" holiday issues, see “Teaching About Religious Holidays – “The December Dilemma” in ADL’s publication, Religion in the Public Schools.