It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With Christmas just around the corner, we at the ACLU of Nevada are expecting the usual allegations about a supposed ACLU-led “War on Christmas.”
Having grown accustomed to provocative chain emails about our work relating to religious expression and the arrival at our offices of many naughty (and a few nice) Christmas cards, last year’s misunderstanding by administrators at Virgin Valley High School (VVHS) in Clark County almost came as no small surprise.
The ACLU of Nevada received complaints from students and families at VVHS alleging school-sponsored religious practices. We responded by sending a letter to the Clark County School District (CCSD) reviewing the problematic practices, including “team-sponsored prayer prior to football games; sectarian instruction by school teachers during class time; and proselytizing literature posted prominently in instructional classrooms.”
Somehow, in the fallout from the exchange between our organization and CCSD, administrators at VVHS came to believe that school employees were prohibited from wishing “Merry Christmas” to anyone. Parents from VVHS started a protest against our supposed position and even the Mesquite Local News wrote an editorial based on this misinformation.
It took a concerted outreach effort on our behalf to straighten the situation out. Thankfully, the Mesquite Local News followed up with a full correction and VVHS officials came to understand that the ACLU does not actually have a problem with Christmas in schools.In fact, the ACLU remains committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other religious holidays, as well as the right to not celebrate any holiday at all. At the same time, we work ensure that the government does not promote a particular religious belief or practice, regardless of the season.
To help clarify our position regarding religious expression, the ACLU created "Celebrating Christmas in America", which features a series of short pieces on Christmas, addresses the origins of Christmas celebrations and icons, rebuts the “War on Christmas” myth, and provides a brief review of the law.
We made this website and hope that you will check it twice – that way, you will be prepared when any of your friends or family forward you an email attempting to discredit our approach to religious freedom.
Individuals, families, and religious communities should be allowed to express the diversity of their beliefs without government interference. This includes wishing each other “Merry Christmas.”
This article originally appeared in the ACLU of Nevada's Fall/Winter 2011 newsletter.