New York, NY, November 30, 2011 … To help public schools and other government institutions navigate the complex issues raised by the December holiday season - often referred to as the "December Dilemma" - the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has provided information on appropriate holiday displays and practices to public school educators and other officials.
In letters sent to school districts and government officials nationwide, the League provided information on how to respect religious diversity while observing the December Holidays, as well as complying with constitutional requirements.
"December poses a dilemma for public institutions that wish to observe the holiday season festivities, but which also must be mindful of the separation of government and religion mandated by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," said Deborah Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. "In order to maintain an inclusive and welcoming environment for their entire community, schools and governments have an obligation to be prepared about how to appropriately celebrate the December holidays from both a legal and diversity perspective"
Through ADL's 30 Regional Offices and in materials available on its Web site, the League advises public schools on how to suitably acknowledge the December season by emphasizing the need to celebrate diversity by being inclusive and respecting different points of view concerning religion.
Some of the matters highlighted and explained in detail by ADL include:
- The difference between teaching about religious holidays (which is permitted) and practicing religious holidays (which is not);
- Developing appropriate and inclusive holiday programming;
- Guidelines for holiday assemblies, concerts, programs and other school events where religious music or drama may be included;
- Choosing suitable seasonal symbols to decorate school grounds; and
- Understanding the importance of teachers conveying information about religious holidays, instead of relying on students as representatives.
In a letter sent to local governments ADL offers guidance about the placement of suitable holiday symbols on public property such as courthouses and state capital buildings. The letters included a "Quick Guide to Religious Displays," which helps public officials to understand displays that are constitutionally appropriate during the holiday season.
A detailed explanation of these December holiday issues is available in ADL's online guide, "The December Dilemma – December Holiday Guidelines for Public Schools".