Merry Winter Holiday: Banning Christmas from the Schools

CAL THOMAS

December 15, 1992|By CAL THOMAS

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- As surely as Christmas comes every year, so do the efforts by a tiny minority to keep many people from exercising their religious and free speech rights.

Following last summer's Supreme Court ruling in Lee vs. Weisman, which banned references to God at public school commencement ceremonies, some school districts have begun helping the court finish the spiritual genocide it began more than four decades ago.

The superintendent of Frederick County, Virginia, public schools, Thomas Malcolm, is speeding up the process.

Mr. Malcolm issued a memorandum instructing teachers and administrators to no longer refer to Christmas by its traditional name, but to substitute ''winter holiday.'' Christmas parties are OK for schools to hold, if they are called ''holiday parties.''

Mr. Malcolm did this on his own. He was not responding to a complaint or lawsuit, just the ''possibility'' that someone might be offended and that the traditional references ''could'' be unconstitutional.

Employees were instructed to refer to Easter as ''spring break,'' or use other terminology that does not convey religious meaning to students.

When threatened with a suit by the Rutherford Institute, a law firm that argues religious freedom cases, Mr. Malcolm suspended the policy until a committee he created studies the matter further. But his strike against a traditional American holiday and the beliefs of most Americans is another blow to what remains of this country's heritage.

Mr. Malcolm acted when mandatory sex education is the rule in every Virginia public school. But apparently the words ''Christmas'' and ''Easter'' are regarded as a more clear and present danger.

The American government, once the protector and even reflector of religious tradition and thinking, has become an enemy of those with religious faith. With the assistance of pressure groups, government now indulges in the final frontier of bigotry, what writer and Catholic theologian Michael Novak calls ''Christophobia.''

Traditional Christians and Jews are the new counterculture, aliens in a land their forefathers' beliefs and values built. Anything that seems to come from or lead to a world not of this one is deemed offensive, illegal and unwise.

What's amazing is that the memo from Thomas Malcolm bears a striking resemblance to the way the former Soviet Union required Christmas to be observed in its public schools.

Soviet government mandates forbade the use of the word Christmas, requiring ''winter holiday'' instead. ''Father Frost'' was the substitute for Jesus or Santa Claus, and the decorated trees were called ''New Year Trees.''

Now, the new Russia has opened its doors to Christmas and to faith. Two days after our Nov. 3 election, a group of top Russian educators met in California with several American religious leaders and educators. The Russians asked the group to bring teachers and Bibles to their country's public schools and restore the value and ethical base they believe their children lost during seven decades of atheistic indoctrination.

Americans are doing what they can to wipe out religion from the public schools, while Russians are doing what they can to revive it. Having been without religious freedom and experiencing persecution for most of this century, Russians apparently see the value of what they lost. It appears the Russians have learned something from us, and we have learned nothing from them.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

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