Charlie Brown: I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about. Isn’t there anyone who understands what Christmas is all about?
Linus: Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
— “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
In the Peanuts Christmas (not “holiday”) classic, a morose Charlie Brown struggles to come to grips with “the true meaning of Christmas.” Recall that Lucy, dispensing psychiatric advice as a cure for Charlie Brown’s melancholy, therapeutically tasks him with directing their school’s Christmas play. “You need involvement,” she tells him. “You need to get involved in some real Christmas project.” When the advice fails to pay off, Linus takes to the school auditorium’s stage and having transformed his blanket into a shepherd’s costume recites Luke 2:8-14. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” Linus concludes.
At least one court disagrees. In a ruling issued last week in the case of Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Concord Community Schools, a federal judge ordered an Indiana high school to cancel a live Nativity musical number enjoyed since 1970 as a regular part of its annual “Christmas Spectacular” shows. Over drifting choruses of Christmas carols and surrounding a hay-lined crèche, costumed student performers played the parts of Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, shepherds and angels. In light of last week’s ruling, Linus’ homily no longer represents a message of hope for all mankind. Rather, it is an unconstitutional example of religious indoctrination imposing its cruelty on children vulnerable to religious conversion at the twinkle of a light and the tranquil strains of Silent Night.
Atheist activists and the Democrat-appointed liberal judges who empower them (or is it the other way around?) have seen to it that their interpretation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law … respecting an establishment of religion….”) will be strictly enforced in our nation’s public schools. It took Judge Jon E. Deguilio, an Obama appointee, 16 lumbering pages filled with the kind of tortured insight only a progressive lexicologist might enjoy to conclude that “a reasonable observer would fairly believe that the portrayal of the living nativity scene, when viewed in the particular context, circumstances, and history of the Christmas Spectacular, conveys a message of endorsement of religion, or that a particular religious belief is favored or preferred.”
This is what it has come to. Good grief.
But the piety reserved for constitutional transcendence apparently extends only to restricting Christian expression in public schools. For decades – yes, decades – Islamic religious dogma and practices have been part of public school curricula nationwide. In 2003, parents in Northern California sued over a middle school world history program featuring a series of role–playing activities (“simulations”) in which students were required to “become a Muslim” for three weeks. They were told to choose a Muslim name, recite Islamic prayers (including the Shahada, a Muslim’s profession of faith in Allah and acknowledgement of Muhammed as his prophet), participate in imaginary pilgrimages to Mecca, perform ritual fasting during lunch to simulate fasting Muslims carry out during their “holy month” of Ramadan, dress in Muslim robes and recite Arabic phrases meaning “God is great.” (The case was Eklund v. Byron Union Sch. Dist.)
The parents expressed additional concern over a trivia card game in which students were taught to affirm that Allah is the one true God, that Muhammad is his prophet, and that the “Holy Qu’ran” is God’s third revelation as revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel. There’s more, but you get the picture. Under the test employed by Judge Delguilio in the Nativity case, these facts should have been more than sufficient to find an Establishment Clause violation and end the instruction. Had the tables been turned, no court would have allowed schools to teach children to recite the Lord’s prayer or take communion. That has been the law of the land at least since the Supreme Court banned school prayer in Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963).
But through the fractured prism of progressive thinking, one plus one doesn’t always equal two, and a San Francisco federal judge dismissed the case. Affirming the judgment, the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t even bother to perform a legal analysis, concluding perfunctorily that “[t]he Islam program activities were not ‘“overt religious exercises” that raise Establishment Clause concerns.’” The Court ordered its opinion not to be published, so it can’t be cited as binding precedent, which may explain why the U.S Supreme Court turned down an appeal.
A decade would pass before other parents would take notice of what their children were being taught. Just last month, a Huntington Beach mother was shocked to discover a poem her seventh grade son brought home from school promoting the spread of Islam through violence: “This is their fight song/Spread Islam now song/Prove that they’re right song … And they don’t really care/If no Jews or C[hristians]’ believe….” The school district apologized for the teacher’s use of such “supplemental materials,” materials a teacher is not required to use, but the incident exposed only the tip of an enormous propaganda iceberg concealed from parents and the larger public.
Indeed, the scope of educational tools being used to aggrandize, and even glamourize, Islam – or what is more widely, and broadly, described in school curricula as the “Islamic Civilization,” – is not limited to the “supplemental materials” teachers are recklessly using. Various studies surveying history, social studies and other textbooks adopted for use have found, as one summarizes it, a “pattern of historical revisionism, omission, and bias in the presentation of all aspects devoted to Islam.” Common Core Standards all but ensure that students will be taught the “approved” version of Islam educators desire. And there is no credible program that educates teachers regarding how to teach about religion without crossing the line into teaching religious dogma.
Slowly awakening to what has been described as an entrenched ideological environment that extols Islam as a superior religious choice under the pretense of fostering diversity and multiculturalism, parents, activists and legislators are beginning to mobilize against it. In Tennessee, our organization, Freedom X, has partnered with activist groups to expose the inadequacy of religious instruction. Tennessee Representative Sheila Butt has proposed legislation delaying the teaching of religions until high school.
But these efforts are only a beginning and the challenges are great. As a legal matter, finding a parent willing to sue a school district prior to his or her child’s graduating from a particular school is like finding a needle in a haystack. Then there is the problem of discovering what precisely the child has been taught, and with what materials, and how aggressively. Overcoming those hurdles, there is always the specter of liberal judges to contend with.
Making a pedagogical case for Christmas in public schools stands as much a chance of winning in courts as teaching about Islam’s conquests – not to mention 9⁄11 – is likely to be taught through public education. It is a whitewashing of history that cannot be taught with any objectivity at all, much less to children in K-12 schools, who sadly are denied a simple message of hope one time, one season, one Christmas each year.
Bill Becker is founder, president, CEO and General Counsel of Freedom X, a non-profit public interest law firm protecting conservative and religious freedom of expression. Freedom X was lead counsel in Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee v. City of Santa Monica. www.freedomxlaw.com.