Today, on my Facebook feed, a friend wrote:
I'm so happy to see all of your children's holiday performance photos...but sad that I'm in <<NAME DELETED>> County Schools and we can't do such a thing as we might offend someone... Since no program is done, the atheist children are well covered.
Her friends jumped in, deriding us horrible ole' Atheists for taking away all celebrations of the holidays in schools.
Let's be clear: if this public school system in Tennessee really doesn't have any holiday music performances, it's because the decision-makers in that school system are lazy, cowardly and misinformed. It's NOT because of Atheists, nor because of the other groups, like Catholics, Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses, who also sue public school systems that use school activities to promote a particular religion.
Any public school in the USA can have a program of music, dance and/or skits in December that includes Christian music - it just shouldn't be ONLY Christian music. As the Freedom From Religion Foundation notes, "Nine Christmas songs and one 'Dreidel Song' does not a balanced concert make."
As noted by ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development): Religious “neutrality” does not mean hostility to religion nor ignoring religion. "Neutrality means protecting the religious liberty rights of all students while simultaneously rejecting school endorsement or promotion of religion."
It's this simple: a public school concert should not be a constant advertisement for a religion. A school concert that features well known relgiously-themed Christmas carols as well secular songs such as "Deck the Halls," "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," and "White Christmas" (and, even better "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer") is going to meet the standard of celebrating various aspects of the season without endorsing any one religion. Even a winter concert of nothing but devotional music by Brahms, Hayden, Verdi and other classical music legends and no secular choices at all would probably not be challenged as promoting one religion but, rather, be seen as educating and celebrating historical European classical music, and as a way for the student performers to improve their classical music skills.
Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to sing along to "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful," followed by Robert Earl Keene's "Merry Christmas from the Family". That's how I roll at Yule Time. And if you want to come sing Christmas Carols at my house, bring it - I've got some chocolate for ya. Just don't expect me to convert.