Each year around this time, Jordan Lorence receives a flurry of telephone calls from parents whose children attend public schools.

He says the alarmed callers have a similar story: A parent objects when the school choir sings Christmas carols, and civil liberties lawyers challenge the activity. “… The school officials freak out and censor all the religious songs,” says Lorence, a legal counsel to Concerned Women for America (CWA,) a conservative Christian activist organization.

This Christmas season, CWA is spearheading a campaign to support activities such as caroling and displaying nativity scenes in public schools. The organization is distributing a booklet titled Christmas in the Public Schools, which describes what CWA says are constitutional ways to observe the holidays in public schools.

Critics charge that activists like Lorence are less interested in constitutionality than in getting religion into public schools through the back door. Barry Lynn, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,) said his organization will oppose CWA’S efforts as a threat to the constitutional separation of church and state.

Season Of Ill Will?

Conflict between church and state has become a predictable feature of the season. Disputes extend beyond schools to other public places where symbols of Christ’s birth appear. At issue is the First Amendment ban on any government establishment of religion.

In August, a federal appeals court ruled that the City of Chicago could not continue to erect a crèche at City Hall. The court said the presence of the crèche on public property represented a government endorsement of Christianity.

But some of the most emotional disputes center on public schools. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.