The Thomas More Law Centre is taking the City of New York and some of its public school officials to court after the City imposed a total ban on Christmas Nativity displays in its public schools. The hearing on the Law Center's motion to temporarily restrain the City from enforcing this ban will take place today in a federal court in Brooklyn.
In its brief, New York argues that the Nativity scene does not depict the historical event of the birth of Jesus and that this event is not the basis for the celebration of Christmas.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed the federal civil lawsuit last year on behalf of Roman Catholic Andrea Skoros and her two children, who are both elementary school students in New York.
The Law Centre has pointed out that while New York's policy prohibits public school displays of Christmas Nativity scenes, it encourages the display of the Jewish Menorah and the Islamic star and crescent during their respective holidays.
The Law Centre cites the example of a public school principal, who issued a memo encouraging teachers to bring to school "religious symbols" that represent the Islamic and Jewish religions but made no mention of Christianity.
At times, teachers have had students make the Jewish Menorahs that would often adorn the halls of the schools as part of the "authorized" displays. However, the students were not allowed to make and similarly display Nativity scenes, said the Law Centre. When a parent wrote to her son's teacher to complain about this, the teacher responded by sending the parent a copy of the school's "Holiday Displays" policy.
In December 2001 and 2002, Catholic League president William Donohue attempted to get school officials to change their discriminatory policy. However, they decided only to allow Christmas trees, claiming that Supreme Court precedent prohibited them from including the Nativity scene as part of their holiday displays.
"This case will decide whether public school officials can enforce a policy that shows preference for Judaism and Islam, but disfavors Christianity,” said Robert Muise, the Law Centre attorney handling the case. “Can Christianity be erased from a public school? Can ‘Christ’ be removed from Christmas? We will soon find out."