The War on Christmas Continues; the Thomas More Law Center Fights Back

For the last several years the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been defending the right of Christians to display nativity scenes on public property and to celebrate Christmas in public schools. 

Every Christmas season brings on a new wave of challenges to Nativity Displays and the banning of “religious” music, Christmas concerts and Christmas decorations by public schools. TMLC has successfully defended the proper celebration of this National Holiday in numerous cases.  As in the past, TMLC, yesterday, sent a memo providing legal support for Christmas celebrations and Nativity Displays to over 700 of its affiliated lawyers across the country.

TMLC specifically asked its affiliated attorneys to bring to its attention local bans on Christmas celebrations by municipalities and public schools and to assist citizens who seek to challenge those bans.   Moreover, TMLC will not only use its own staff attorneys to directly assist citizens challenging bans on Christmas celebrations, but will also assist their affiliated attorneys who provide their legal services pro bono.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center commented, “The war on Christmas is really a war on Christians.  Organizations like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State using threats of lawsuits have bullied municipalities and public schools to eliminate the public celebration of Christmas.  Of course the constitutionality of a particular Christmas celebration or Nativity Displays must be judged on its own facts.  But municipalities and schools should be aware that the systematic exclusion of Christmas symbols during the holiday season is not warranted.”

In 1984, Chief Justice Warren Burger had this to say in his opinion upholding the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island’s nativity display:

"It would be ironic, however, if the inclusion of a single symbol of a particular historic religious event, as part of a celebration acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, by the Executive Branch, by the Congress, and the courts for two centuries, would so ‘taint’ the City's exhibit as to render it violative of the Establishment Clause.  To forbid the use of this one passive symbol – the crèche – at the very time people are taking note of the season with Christmas hymns and carols in public schools and other public places, and while the Congress and Legislatures open sessions with prayers by paid chaplains, would be a stilted over-reaction contrary to our history and to our holdings. If the presence of the crèche in this display violates the Establishment Clause, a host of other forms of taking official note of Christmas, and of our religious heritage, are equally offensive to the Constitution."

As part of its Christmas Campaign, the Law Center is ready to assist individuals to petition their local governments in writing for permission to erect Nativity Displays.     

According to the Thomas More Law Center:

  • The First Amendment protects private speech in traditional public forums, such as public parks, or in what is known as designated public forums, which are public property the government has designated for public assembly and speech.
  • There should be no unreasonable prohibitions against public school students wishing each other “Merry Christmas,” distributing Christmas cards, or wearing clothing displaying a religious message.
  • It is constitutionally permissible for schools to permit the study and performance of religious songs in its public schools, in order to promote the legitimate educational goal of “advancing the students’ knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage.”       

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