Maryann Macdonald is the author of "The Christmas Cat," which arrives just in time for the holidays. The story tells the tale of a cat believed to have been present at the birth of Jesus the Christ, and Macdonald spoke with The Christian Post to explain why she wanted to tell this particular story and what she hopes readers will take away from it.
Christian Post: How did you come upon this story? What inspired you to write this tale?
Maryann Macdonald: Leonardo da Vinci's "La Madonna del Gatto," which depicts Mary, Jesus, and a small cat. When I wrote the story, I was hoping that the editor would be able to find an illustrator who had a freehand like da Vinci, and the editor managed to find this woman (Amy June Bates) who had that. My daughter said, 'In certain places, the animals almost have a Disney-esque quality to them.' more >>
New Jersey's MacFarland Intermediate School has lifted its controversial ban on Christmas carols after beings contacted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, in a decision that was said to have divided the parents in the district.
"In reviewing additional legal considerations and advice on this matter and the expressed sentiments of the community at large, I have reconsidered the decision on the musical selection for the upcoming winter programs so that pieces with traditional and historical religious origins will be permitted," Superintendent Constance Bauer said, according to an update on the school's upcoming winter concert.
Two families had complained about allowing Christmas carols for the winter concert, and Bauer originally decided to follow "legal recommendations" and remove religious songs from the festivities. The district's legal firm, Parker McCay of Mount Laurel, had determined that "religious music should not be part of the elementary program(s)," according to Burlington County Times. more >>
A school district in New Jersey that already excludes the word "Christmas" from its calendar of events for December is banning religious Christmas music during winter concert performances at its elementary schools, according to a religious freedom advocacy group.
Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to the Bordentown Regional School District after administrators pointed to a New Jersey court ruling that states religious music should not be a part of elementary school programs.
"Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to perform Christmas carols," said ADF Legal Counsel Matthew Sharp. "Courts have unanimously upheld their inclusion in school productions – even when songs deal with Christian themes that are naturally a part of the holiday." more >>
A new Missouri law has recently gone into effect that allows public schools and buildings in the state to observe Christmas, or any federal holiday, without restrictions. The bill was overrode by state lawmakers in September after it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon over public safety concerns.
House Bill 278 became law last week after the state's legislators voted to override Democratic Gov. Nixon's veto on the bill in September. Although the law does not explicitly mention Christmas, supporting lawmakers of the bill have said that Christmas was specifically in mind when the bill was drafted. The bill's text reads, in part, "No state or local governmental entity, public building, public park, public school, or public setting or place shall ban or otherwise restrict the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday."
Gov. Nixon vetoed the bill in July, but then the state's legislators voted 114 to 45 in September to override the veto, and the bill went into effect on Oct. 11. State Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), the bill's sponsor, said in a letter to Missouri school administrators and board members that he hopes the law will reverse the "chilling effect" that the separation of church and state has had on the ability to celebrate federal holidays like Christmas in public schools. more >>
Steven Curtis Chapman won for "Christmas Album of the Year" at the GMA Dove Awards earlier this week for his album JOY, making it his 58th career Dove Award, more than any other artist to date.
Chapman just released his latest album, The Glorious Unfolding, which debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and received acclaim for being the album that brought Chapman's "joy" back after tragedy.
The album is "a mixture of everything that makes [Chapman] great. It's honest, raw, clever, powerful and even playful … it is uplifting in a way only someone who has dealt with tragedy and loss can truly express it in words," Beliefnet said. more >>
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) declared victory in a Christmas music case following a public outcry against a Wisconsin school board's alleged attempt to limit religious songs in school performances. The Master Singers, Wausau West High School's elite choir, which formed the center of the debate, resumed practice on Tuesday.
"The courts have never thought [of religious songs in schools as] a problem because there's obvious secular reasons for them in concerts," Rory Gray, ADF litigation counsel, told The Christian Post on Tuesday. Gray argued for the cultural and educational value of traditional religious songs, mentioning that many traditional carols involve "complex music, written by masters."
The controversy arose early this month when Phillip Buch, director of Wausau West High School's choral programs since 1981, told the Wausau Daily Herald that Wausau School Distrcit administrators gave him three restricting options for Christmas music: include five secular, nonreligious songs for every faith-based carol; hold a concert without any Christmas music; or postpone concerts in December. more >>