Teaching About Religion
in support of civic pluralism
To recognize and provide
information about holidays,
focusing on how and when they
are celebrated, their origins,
histories and generally
agreed-upon meanings. [TGRPS]

To teach about a holiday if it
furthers a genuine secular
program of education, is
presented objectively, and does
not have the effect of advancing or
inhibiting religion. [ADL-with court
citation 1]

To teach
about the religious
aspects and the religious meaning
of religious holidays for adherents,
and that others may celebrate only
the secular aspects of those
holidays. [USDE]

To focus on more than one
religion and religious holiday.

To use symbols such as crosses,
crèches and menorahs as
teaching aids in the classroom
provided that the symbols are
displayed as examples of the
cultural and religious heritage of
the holiday, and are temporary in
nature. [ADL]

To use (with care) Christmas trees
or a Hanukkah menorah as
decorations. (See below for more
information on holiday symbols.)

To allow students to choose to
create artwork with religious or
nonreligious symbols. [TGRPS]

To include music, art, literature,
and drama with religious themes
when teaching about holidays,
provided that their overall effect is
not to endorse religion and that
they are presented in a religiously
neutral, prudent and objective
manner, and relate to sound,
secular educational goals. [ADL]

To excuse a student when the
religious or nonreligious beliefs of
students or their parents conflict
with the content of classroom
activity. [USDE]

To celebrate religious holidays.

To celebrate religious holidays in
the form of religious worship or
other practices. [ADL]

To use the study of religious
holidays as an opportunity to
proselytize or otherwise inject
personal religious beliefs into the
discussion. [TGRPS]

To observe holidays
as religious
events or promote such
observance by students. [USDE]

To focus only on a single dominant
religion's holidays. [ADL]

To use religious decorations year
round. [ADL-with court citation 2]

To use religious symbols (e.g., ,
crèches) as seasonal
decorations. [ADL-with court
citation 3]

To present expressive
assignments like artwork, plays
and reports that are presented
publicly in a manner that an
observer might think that the
project is endorsed by the school.

To employ material having a
religious theme without knowing
the relationship to promoting a
secular program of study.

To require a youngster's
participation in a
religiously-themed activity to which
there is student or parental

Teachers must take care in
excusing a student to avoid
stigmatizing or appearing to
punish the student (e.g. a student
whose parents do not permit her
to take part in a holiday party
should not be required to, say, sit
in the hall and do math
More on holiday symbols: Christmas trees and menorahs have become
such secular symbols of the winter holiday season that their display by a
public entity may not be an Establishment Clause violation. However, it is
not at all clear that such displays are permissible in the public schools.
(Regarding a menorah and Christmas tree display, the Court noted, "when
located in a public school, such a display might raise additional
constitutional considerations").
[ADL-with court citation 3]

1 Florey v. Sioux Falls School Dist. 49-5, 619 F.2d 1311 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S.
987 (1980)
2 Washegesic v. Bloomingdale Public Schools, 33 F.3d 679 (6th Cir 1994)
3 County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, 492 U.S. 573, 629n69 (1989)
(noting the special Establishment Clause sensitivities present in public school)