An Open Letter to the ADL

In today’s mail I received a letter from Jennifer Nielsen, the Project Director for A World of Difference Institute and Director for the Training and Education Curriculum Division of the Anti-Defamation League. Her letter begins thus: “As the December holidays approach, we at the Anti-Defamation League–one of the nation’s premier organizations defending religious liberty–know that many school districts are faced with difficult questions about how to appropriately acknowledge the December holidays.” The letter goes on to explain how a school can celebrate diversity, respect different views on religion, and “comply with the United States Constitution.”

How might we do that? According to the ADL we would do it by never endorsing any religious faith over another. We may teach about a holiday only if it furthers a “genuine secular program of education.” Furthermore, religious symbols are “not appropriate seasonal decorations” because “symbols of religious holidays make some students feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.”

The letter’s accompanying Quick Guide includes instruction that a creche (i.e., a nativity scene or even simply a manger) is never acceptable at a public school, whether alone or as part of a mixed religious display with multiple religions represented. (The guide states that the same holds true for any government property). Furthermore, “mixed religious and non-religious decorations” are never acceptable, and “non-religious seasonal displays” such as white lights, reindeer and snowmen are acceptable so long as “more than one holiday or religion is represented by the ‘non-religious’ images chosen.” Oh, and the Supreme Court has ruled that Christmas trees are “non-religious.”

Am I the only one struck by the incredible stupidity of guidelines proclaiming that religious decorations are never acceptable, and that non-religious ones are, so long as those non-religious decorations represent more than one religion?

I could delve into a very lengthy discourse on the absurdity of most of the contents of the letter and guide, but I will spare you. I could also engage in a discussion about whether or not a public school should acknowledge or celebrate any “religious holidays,” but I will skip that for now, too. Of course, there is a wonderful and very simple solution to this issue: Don’t enroll your student in a government school! And since Ms. Nielsen either doesn’t realize that Sunshine Bible Academy is not a government school, or feels that we are in need of her ridiculous guidelines anyway, I am sending her the following letter by U.S. Mail:

Ms. Nielsen,

I am in receipt of your recent letter regarding “the December holidays” and the ADL’s suggestions on how to “appropriately acknowledge” said holidays. I submit that I respectfully disagree with the vast majority of the contents of your letter and the accompanying Quick Guide.

I consider most of the guidance that your mailing includes for public schools to be in error. However, since our school is a non-public school, I will refrain from going into a detailed examination of those errors and simply ask that you remove our school from your mailing list.

As we celebrate Christmas next month we will be focusing on one “religion” and one religious observance—the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to earth in the form of a man to live a perfect life, die a sacrificial death, rise again three days later, and in so doing make possible the forgiveness of our sins. I trust you will know and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this year, too. That will be our prayer for you and your organization as we celebrate next month.

On behalf of Sunshine Bible Academy, may I be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Jason B. Watson

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