Arguments are set to begin in a federal appeal seeking to reverse a New Jersey school district’s policy that banned the performance of religious music in the district’s public schools. Opponents of the ban claim it singles out Christian traditions for disapproval and hostility.
Robert Muise, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center, will argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia on September 14, the Law Center reports.
Muise noted that Christmas is a national holiday and described religious music in the public schools as “one of the rich traditions of this season.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Michael Stratechuk, who sued on his own and on behalf of his two children, who are students in the South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey. The suit alleges that the ban is an impermissible government-sponsored message of disapproval of and hostility towards religion, violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Further, the suit claims that the ban deprives Karl and Kurt Stratechuk of the right to receive information and ideas. The Law Center describes this right as an “inherent corollary” of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
The Thomas More Law Center charges that the school district’s 2004 ban was specifically aimed at preventing Christmas music, including simple instrumentals, during the traditional year-end holiday concerts. Traditional Christmas music has been performed at these concerts for over 60 years.
“Those that are hostile to these traditions hide behind the mantle of ‘tolerance,’ only to promote intolerance,” Muise commented. “We learn to understand and respect traditions, customs, and beliefs not by being offended or threatened by the traditions of others, but by understanding the meaning of such traditions and why they have the capacity to inspire.”
According to the Law Center, the disputed school district policy was featured in Fox News anchor John Gibson’s book “The War on Christmas.”