A public charter school was recently warned by an unidentified, anti-religion organization to not perform faith-based Christmas carols during their winter concert and threatened that they would pursue possible litigation if they did not comply.
The band director at York Preparatory Academy in Rock Hill, S.C., decided to exclude "Joy to the World" and "O Come All Ye Faithful," from their Dec. 19 performance after the school received the letter, even though the songs were going to be a part of the program before the communication was sent out by the organization.
In defense of concerned parents whose two children attend the school, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, sent York a letter urging them to immediately rescind the ban put in place by school officials. The ADF told The Christian Post that the school would not specify which organization sent them the letter and after several attempts, York did not return CP's phone call for comment.
"The Constitution clearly allows the inclusion of religious Christmas carols in school productions," said Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel for the ADF, in a statement. "We hope our letter will help clear up the misinformation that this school apparently received and that it will lift its unnecessary and unconstitutional ban."
Their counter letter to the school also informed them that even the federal court has determined that including religious Christmas carols in school music programs fully complies with the First Amendment. Furthermore, it stated that for many years, courts have recognized that Christmas carols have achieved a cultural significance that justifies them being performed in public schools. However, the First Amendment demands York to remain neutral toward religion and "refrain from demonstrating an unconstitutional hostility toward music with religious origins."
The academy's policy of intentionally excluding band arrangements with melodies from religious Christmas carols, regardless of the music's demonstrated cultural value and educational merit, does in fact, show impermissible hostility toward religion, states the letter.
According to ADF, the academy's principal confirmed that the letter was sent to them and suggested that students would need to play songs from other religions as well if they wanted to sing traditional Christian holiday music.
"Schools shouldn't have to think twice about whether they can allow their bands to play the music to time-honored Christmas carols like these," said Litigation Staff Counsel Rory Gray. "School districts can and should allow religious Christmas carols to be part of their school productions."
In a similar and recent incident to York, another school in South Carolina canceled their annual Christmas toy drive after the American Humanist Association complained that their efforts violated the U.S. Constitution and accused them of bribing children to convert to Christianity while threatening to sue them.
Earlier this week, Alliance Defending Freedom also sent a separate letter to more than 13,000 school districts throughout the country explaining the constitutionality of religious Christmas carols in public school productions.
The letter cited recent examples of school districts in Wisconsin and New Jersey that censored Christmas carols in school productions and then changed their positions in response to public outcry and letters from ADF explaining that the inclusion of religious carols is permissible.
"Public schools' confusion about this issue and the legalities of celebrating Christmas in other ways has been largely caused by inaccurate information about the Establishment Clause spread by certain groups opposed to any religious expression occurring in public," stated the letter.
In addition, ADF wrote a Christmas memo and a Christmas and public schools myths fact sheet that dispels any misconceptions about their legal rights.
"We hope the materials we are providing to school districts will help clear up the misinformation that groups attempting to cleanse all traces of religion from the public square have spread for far too long," said Kevin Theriot, ADF senior counsel.