Saturday, January 17, 2009

NY City Schools to Stop Christmas Discrimination

After years of celebrating Jewish and Muslim holy days with visible symbols in the classroom, now after a lawsuit, New York City Hall plans to allow Christmas nativity scenes as well.

-- From "Battle on Crèches in Schools Goes to City Hall" by Javier C. Hernandez, New York Times, 1/13/09

The New York City Department of Education has long granted [non-Christian] symbols a public place during the holiday season, but has not allowed nativity scenes, because it sees them as purely religious.

Councilman Tony Avella, who in 2007 introduced the resolution asking for the department to change its policy, said the city should be open to giving Christians a religious symbol on a par with the menorah or star and crescent.

“If you believe in fairness and inclusion,” he said, “then you have to say yes to this.”

Three years ago, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the city’s policy. While the appeals court took issue with the city’s characterization of the menorah and star and crescent as secular symbols, it said the policy had been crafted with a secular intent and effect — to promote the diversity of the holiday season — and did not denigrate Christianity. The United States Supreme Court has since declined to take up the matter.

The appeals court, however, left open the possibility that crèches could be considered legal, saying it was not ruling one way or the other on the issue.

William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said he viewed the matter as one of discrimination. For 14 years, Mr. Donohue’s group has erected a life-size nativity scene on city property in Central Park. Mr. Donohue said he did not see the distinction between that and putting one on school grounds.

-- From "Plan allows Nativity at Christmas!" © 2009 WorldNetDaily 1/17/09

According to a report from the Thomas More Law Center, the council heard testimony from law center attorney Brian Rooney and comments from Bill Donohue of the Catholic League this week on a proposal that would end a long-standing policy of discrimination against Christians in the public schools at Christmas.

Rooney said, "The star and crescent and menorah are religious symbols that serve the DOE' secular learning purpose. A crèche is no different. Discrimination is discrimination, and the DOE' policy has the effect of being discriminatory. By excluding the crèche, the DOE' policy current policy is internally inconsistent, objectively hostile and bigoted, and it must be changed."

The resolution was generated after the Thomas More Law Center sued the district on behalf of Andrea Skoros and her two children, Catholics who wanted to display a Nativity scene at Christmas.

The 2nd Circuit Court said the menorah and star and crescent are in fact religious symbols – contrary to the DOE policy. Although the court did not rule that displaying a Nativity scene would be unconstitutional, its reasoning allowing for the menorah and star and crescent make clear that if the school system wanted to place a crèche in schools, this, too, would be constitutional, the law center said.

To read the entire WorldNetDaily article, CLICK HERE.