2002-12-19 / This Week's Attitude

This Week’s

AttitudeNaughty Educrats Lack Spirit Of Holiday Season
By Neil S. Friedman

Naughty Educrats Lack Spirit Of Holiday Season

In this festive holiday season, the mood and the message of good will is apparently lost on a few Scrooges and nincompoops in the New York City public school system.

Last week a Queens family and the Catholic Lea-gue for Religious and Civil Rights sued the city, charging the Department of Education’s policy on holiday displays in New York’s public schools discriminates against Roman Catholics. Court papers accuse the city of promoting Judaism and Islam as it rejects Christianity because public schools prohibit nativity crèches while permitting displays of Han-ukkah menorahs and the Islamic star and crescent.

Freedom of religion is one of the fundamentals on which this country was founded. But, under the doctrine of separation of Church and State, no specific religion can be promoted or proselytized by the government or public institutions because it may appear that it is an endorsement of a particular religion.

However, that condition is being too narrowly construed when public institutions are forced to act hostile to holiday celebrations. In this particular in-stance, the city’s education bureaucrats — educrats — are carrying things waaay too far; despite the fact Christmas is, at its roots, a religious celebration of the birth of Christ.

American culture, I daresay, has witnessed Christ-mas, and to a lesser degree Hanukkah, evolve into something almost secular and blatantly commercial. Nonetheless, Christmas remains a deeply religious occasion for devout and spiritual Christians. With parallel gift-giving characteristics, and annual celebrations that more often than not overlap, the underlying religious aspects of Christmas and Hanukkah are the only elements that separate the two holidays.

But when public schools, especially in New York City far from the Bible Belt communities, decide to mark these specific occasions for the enjoyment of children, it’s certainly for the secular, not religious, aspects.

Therefore, I utterly agree with the president of the Catholic League who, in announcing the legal action, emphatically stated, "This is nothing but pure unadulterated religious discrimination."

Obviously, a Nativity crèche consists of a depiction of the baby Jesus, which is the focal point of the Christmas celebration. But, is it any more religious than a menorah, which signifies an ancient Hebrew miracle, or the symbols of Islam.

As a Jew I see the nine-candle menorah as a symbol of my religion as much as the Star of David. Since I’m not up on Islamic traditions, I have no idea how deeply its followers view the star and crescent. But I can imagine it evokes that religion for its practitioners.

So, who do these educrats think they’re fooling and how dare they reject the Christian symbols while acknowledging others? Their action is a flagrant double standard!

Each year it seems some local government somewhere in this country has to contend with the season’s religious aspects and it usually results in the banning of such symbols from public places. The logic in that, I assume, is that if you can’t acknowledge all religions — don’t bow to a few.

Displays of Nativity crèches at Christmas and menorahs at Hanukkah should be viewed as nothing more than simple recognition of religious’ seasonal holidays, not an endorsement by city government.

I think the separation of Church and State can survive crèches, menorahs and crescents for a few weeks.

But that might upset the godless atheists. They’re obviously envious since they have no holidays!

Geez, what’s next? Barring the halls from being decked with boughs of holly? Will the New York City Department of Education ban references to Santa because someone interprets the name as a derivative of the Latin word for Saint, instead of what he really is, a jolly, white-bearded, fat man in a red suit who brings toys to all good little girls and boys?

By the way, I don’t think discriminatory educrats should expect much in the way of presents and goodies from Santa Claus this year — they’ve been naughty rather than nice.

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