New York, NY, December 3, 2013 … To help public schools and other government institutions navigate sensitive issues raised by the December holiday season - often referred to as the “December Dilemma” - and to encourage schools to create welcoming environments that celebrate inclusiveness, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has provided informative materials on appropriate holiday displays and practices to public school educators and other officials.
In letters issued to public school superintendents and local government officials across the nation, ADL provided information on how to respect religious diversity while also 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 country 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.”
“It is essential that public schools remain free from activities that involve religious coercion specifically during the holiday season,” said Deborah Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. “Schools must be hospitable to students from a vast range of backgrounds - students of all faiths and students of no faith. The guidelines we’ve provided are a useful resource on how to keep December celebrations inclusive and welcoming for all.”
Some of the issues outlines 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.