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ACTION ALERT: Urge Mount Pleasant Schools to Drop Christmas Censorship Policy!

November 30, 2007

Dear AFA-Michigan supporter,

As the season we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ draws closer, so do the now annual attempts to censor from our culture any reference to name of “Christ” or even “Christmas.”

Please read the news release below. Then, please join AFA-Michigan in urging the Mount Pleasant School Board to drop its Christmas censorship policy.

Paste these e-mail addresses for the school board into the “to” line of your e-mail:;;;;;;

Thank you for your support, which is deeply appreciated, and…


Gary Signature
Gary Glenn, President
American Family Association of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Fri., Nov. 30, 2007
CONTACT: Gary Glenn 989-835-7978
Pam Dosenberry 989-773-7995
President, Mt. Pleasant School Board

Traditional values group says recognizing
Christmas in schools is fully constitutional

Mount Pleasant schools urged to drop Christmas censorship policy

School calendar lists day off for “Good Friday” but calls Christmas vacation “winter break”

MT. PLEASANT, Mich. — A statewide traditional values organization headquartered in mid-Michigan is accusing the Mount Pleasant Public Schools of censorship over a reported policy prohibiting any mention in school of the words “Christmas” or “nativity” or “Santa.”

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, located in Midland, Friday wrote President Pam Dosenberry and other members of the Mt. Pleasant Public Schools Board of Education, urging them to drop the Christmas censorship policy.

“This censorship policy may be politically correct,” Glenn wrote, “but it is not constitutionally required or correct, and it raises the obvious and much broader question of whether the school district’s enforcement of a policy censoring any mention of Christmas is violating the constitutionally-protected free speech rights of students and faculty.”

“The American Family Association of Michigan urges Mt. Pleasant Public Schools to drop its ‘politically correct’ censorship policy,” Glenn wrote, “and allow students and faculty to both recognize and even celebrate the Christmas holiday at school, a right clearly protected by the Constitution and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court so long as no student who may object is required to participate.”

The school district’s Christmas censorship policy gained notoriety worldwide this week when United Press International Wednesday published the following report:

“Organizers of a Mt. Pleasant, Mich., festival have taken ‘Christmas’ out of the celebration’s name to allow them to advertise the event in schools. The town’s Dickens Christmas Festival has been renamed the Dickens Holiday Festival to allow the city to offset its small advertising budget by placing fliers in schools. …’We changed the name this year for the schools because we wanted to advertise in the school brochures, and the schools have a list of words you can’t use like Santa, Christmas and Nativity,’ Downtown Development Coordinator Michelle Sponseller said. ‘So (we) did a brochure for the schools and we took those words out. But we have a brochure we did for the public and the word Christmas is still in it.'”

Glenn said that among the school district’s policies and administrative procedures published in full on the district’s web site, he could find no formal written policy that prohibits the use of certain words at school. He said he spoke Friday to school Superintendent Joe Pius, who confirmed that it is an informal rather than written policy by which the district does not allow material that makes reference to “Christmas” to be distributed to students but does allow material that uses the word “holiday.”

The district’s web site does include the following written policies:

“The District shall not function as a disseminating agent for any person or outside agency for any religious or anti-religious document, book, or article. …The Board acknowledges that it is prohibited from adopting any policy or rule respecting or promoting an establishment of religion or prohibiting any person from the free, individual, and voluntary exercise or expression of the individual’s/person’s religious beliefs. …Observance of religious holidays through devotional exercises or acts of worship is also prohibited.”

“The Board reserves the right to designate and prohibit the distribution of publications and productions which are not protected by the right of free expression because they violate the rights of others. Such unprotected materials are those which…are grossly prejudicial to an ethnic, religious, racial, or other delineated group…(or)…seek to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view over any other religious denomination, sect, or point of view.”

Commenting on the district policies, Glenn wrote: “Common sense indicates that a flyer advertising a traditional community festival recognizing a federally-designated holiday is not a religious document, does not promote an establishment of religion, is neither devotional or an act of worship, is not grossly prejudicial to anyone, and does not seek to establish the supremacy of any particular religious denomination, sect, or viewpoint.”

He asked board members to specifically identify the violation. “Since a flyer advertising the Dickens Christmas Festival clearly doesn’t violate any of the written policies published on the district’s web site, please explain the justification for censoring the words the festival’s organizers say they were told they couldn’t mention in their flyer.”

Rather than enforce a restrictive and prohibitive censorship policy that is hostile to any reference to Christmas, Glenn urged school board members to adopt a more liberal policy allowing for greater academic freedom regarding instruction on the religious origins and historical and cultural significance of Christmas.

He sent board members a copy of a ten-page legal advisory letter by the Alliance Defense Fund, a non-profit legal foundation that defends religious free speech rights, which cites U.S. Supreme Court and other federal court decisions declaring that recognizing the religious and historic significance of Christmas for educational purposes in public schools is fully constitutional and that restricting student and faculty rights to do so violates the Constitution.

Alliance Defense Fund letter:

ADF’s web site also includes a list of “frequently asked questions” regarding the constitutionality of references to Christmas in public schools.

Based on federal court decisions cited by ADF, Glenn provided school board members a list of recommended Christmas-related educational activities the courts have ruled are permissible under the Constitution so long as no student is compelled to participate:

* “We urge you to issue an instructional letter to school administrators and teachers reminding them that students have constitutionally-protected rights to distribute expressly religious material at school, including Christmas cards that include Biblical references. Further, under federal court rulings, ‘school officials must permit students to convey religious sentiments through their school assignments, selection of reading materials, and clothing that conveys a religious message through words or symbols.’ In fact, under the federal ‘No Child Left Behind Act,’ the Mt. Pleasant Public School district risks losing federal funds if it restricts students’ religious free speech rights at school.”

* “We urge you to encourage school music and theater instructors to include expressly religious Christmas carols in school presentations, ruled by the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to be constitutional if the district states that its purpose in doing so is to advance ‘the studentsÂ’ knowledge of societyÂ’s cultural and religious heritage, as well as the provision of an opportunity for students to perform a full range of music, poetry and drama.'”

* “We urge the school district to refer to the Christmas holiday by the name ‘Christmas’ in all school materials, including accurately referring to ‘Christmas Break’ on your district calendar rather than the generic ‘Winter Break’ that currently appears. At obvious risk that you might expand rather than revoke your constitutionally unsupported policy of censorship toward any reference to items of religious origin, we note that your current school calendar lists school vacation days for ‘Thanksgiving’ and ‘Good Friday,’ both of which are clearly religious in origin but have inexplicably thus far escaped the school district’s politically correct censors.”

* “We urge the board to encourage teachers to actually read the biblical Christmas story in classes and convocations. The Supreme Court has stated that ‘the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.’ Further, a federal appeals court has defined ‘the term “study” to include more than mere classroom instruction; public performance may be a legitimate part of secular study.’ Therefore, for educational purposes, school officials may constitutionally present Christmas passages from the Bible, such as Matthew 1:18–-22 and Luke 2:1–2-20, using a variety of teaching methods’ in school classrooms, convocations, and holiday presentations.”

* “Similarly, rather than censor even the use of the word ‘nativity,’ we urge the board to encourage school administrators and teachers to actually display Nativity scenes as part of their classroom study about the origins and meaning of Christmas. As ADF explains, ‘Public school officials may display religious symbols such as a crèche or nativity scene without offending the Constitution if they have a clear educational reason for doing so. The Supreme Court has held that the display of a nativity scene is constitutional if it is displayed for legitimate secular purposes, such as to celebrate the holiday and to depict the origins of the holiday.'”

Glenn said all such activities, if voluntary, would be fully constitutional and reflect “a more enlightened attitude” consistent with the spirit of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Abington School District v. Schempp, in which the court ruled that no state or school board could mandate religious readings or prayers at school but upheld the constitutionality and educational value of studying the Bible — including the Christmas story — for historic and literary purposes.

“It might well be said,” the Court ruled, “that oneÂ’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

Based on local residents upset by the school district’s censorship policy, Glenn urged board members to “judge for yourselves whether in attempting to avoid offending the tiny number of students or families who may not recognize or celebrate Christmas, you have succeeded in offending far more families among the overwhelming majority of Americans who do.”

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