Jewish group issues warnings on school Christmas observances

Posted: Friday, December 01, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that advocates strict separation of church and state, has issued a ''December Dilemma'' pamphlet warning public schools about observing Christmas and other religious holidays.

Pamphlets are being sent to schools, and the league posted the text on its Web page. The U.S. Constitution, it says, prohibits ''school-sponsored endorsement or promotion of religious beliefs of any kind.''

Since the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on many specific issues, the league bases its interpretations largely on the court's general principles and decisions by lower federal courts.

Classes may discuss cultural aspects of religious holidays, according to the league, but shouldn't cover just one holiday or religion. For instance, it suggests that in December, schools could study Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bill of Rights Day and Buddhist Bodhi Day.

December choral concerts should not focus on one holiday or present only religious music, the league says. It considers music that is prayerful in content just as improper as spoken school prayers.

The league says a student drama depicting the birth of Jesus ''would be impermissible'' due to the religious content, while a play about Christmas presents is acceptable.

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