Recently, an ‘extra’ news item on the 7 p.m. news on one of the local television channels was about an elementary-school principal in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, who banned candy canes because they’re in the shape of a ‘J’ for Jesus.
In fact, in her memo to teachers, according to a December 7 LifeSiteNews article, there were to be no decorations or school assignments that make any reference to Christmas, including Santa Claus and the colours red and green. Her reason? “We have varied religious beliefs in our school, and our job is to be inclusive.”
Although no candy canes are allowed because of their shape, red and white ones are especially unacceptable because “the red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection”.
Also banned in the name of “inclusivity” were: Christmas trees in classrooms; singing Christmas carols or playing Christmas music; making Christmas ornaments as gifts; reindeer; and Christmas videos, movies and/or characters from Christmas movies.
The principal has been put on administrative leave, as her memo “does not reflect the policy” of the school district regarding holiday symbols in the school – but this was only after the ban was protested by Liberty Counsel, a non-profit organisation that focuses on First Amendment religious liberty issues.
This is but one in the growing list of cases that demonstrate hostility towards Christianity in general, and Christmas in particular.
A middle school in Virginia took a decision to bar Christmas songs “of a sacred nature” that mention Jesus Christ, “in order to be more sensitive to the increasing diverse population at the school”. Christmas-season festivities are given secularised names such as ‘Winter Concert’ and ‘Holiday Party’.
Again, in the small town of Newaygo in Michigan, citizens are fighting to keep a wooden display of the Three Wise Men atop its elementary school.
Though the display has been part of the town’s Christmas landscape since the 1940s, the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists is demanding that the school district remove it from the roof of the public building.
The Public School’s superintendent has been at pains to explain that the display, a symbol of the community, has a legitimate secular purpose, which is to stress the importance of wisdom, knowledge, and open-mindedness during the holiday season.
One compromise suggested is that as a project for a class on world religions, students should create more artwork representative of other religious groups, and the artwork be added to the display.
Across the Atlantic, in Italy, the Education Ministry recently granted approval for the installation of crucifixes and reinstating of nativity scenes in the nation’s classrooms, as “the crucifix is … the symbol of our history, our culture, our traditions”.
Since the European Court of Human Rights had ruled against the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms in 2009, activists have made attempts to remove all expressions of Christianity from Italian schools. The situation was further highlighted when a school in the city of Terni, central Italy cancelled its traditional nativity play “in order to respect children from other cultures”.
A representative of the populist Lega Party, Valeria Allesandrini, pointed out that “only by respecting (our own traditions) … can we make others understand everyone is free to practise their own faiths but that it is also required they respect the history and culture of the country in which they live”.
We pray that here in our beloved Trinidad and Tobago, where every creed and race find an equal place, we will continue to celebrate Christmas according to our traditions and that we will always be able to mention Christ in the public arena.
A monthly column by the Emmanuel Community: 46 Rosalino Street, Woodbrook.Tel:628-1064;email@example.com