A Stockton, California, school is finding itself at the center of the annual War on Christmas debate after teachers were told that they won’t be allowed to display Santas, Christmas trees — even Poinsettia plants this year. The ban, of course, is intended to prevent religious discrimination.
A bulletin that teachers reportedly received purportedly says that educators are allowed to decorate with benign snowflakes and snowmen, as these items are “safe” and not attached to religion. The document apparently read, “District office would like to remind everyone when displaying holiday decorations in and around school to be mindful no association to any religious affiliation i.e. Santa, poinsettias, Christmas trees, etc.”
The Claudia Landeen School, part of the Lincoln Unified School District, is a kindergarden through grade eight public educational facility. District Superintendent Tom Uslan explained the reasoning behind the ban, saying that since there are a “myriad of religious affiliations (at the school) we don’t want a pervasive theme of a class to represent one religious affiliation.”
While Uslan claims that there have been no complains at the school thus far, the ban is capturing media coverage and attention. “If the school doesn’t want to do it, I can take them to the mall,” said Annie Dunaway-Costain, a parent. “If they don’t want to do it, it’s their choice. It’s not something I’d fight over.”
But Jim Dunn, a local pastor at First Baptist Church, has a different view on the matter. “I think one of the traditions that happens to be a very American tradition for many of us (is) Christmas,” he said. “I don’t see any problem for other religions being able to display a menorah at that time of the year.”
A spokesperson for the district, though, denied that a letter or communication had been sent to teachers. In an interview with Fox News & Commentary, the spokesperson said, “There has been no letter from district administration. There has been no policy edict from our school board.” The representative continued:
“There was a conversation to encourage administrators that each of our employees should enjoy their religious freedoms but we don’t want to have a pervasive theme of a classroom or public office to represent a specific religious affiliation unless we are formally teaching topics regarding those affiliations.”So does that mean teachers can decorate their classrooms with Santa Claus and poinsettias?
Regardless of whether a letter was actually sent, the spokesperson reiterated that religious elements cannot be “the pervasive theme” in classrooms. Thus, one culture cannot trump another at the school. The definition of “pervasive theme,” though, may be difficult to pin down.