The principal of a Nebraska elementary school has been placed on administrative leave after sending out a memo that banned all Christmas and holiday-specific themed activities at her school.
Jennifer Sinclair of Manchester Elementary School issued a broad Christmas ban saying, "We are not to be doing any Christmas or holiday-specific themed activities with students. Santa and Christmas items are not to be on activities or copies."
She even extended her ban to items like candy canes, saying "the shape is a 'J' for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection." Other items on the list included Christmas trees and even the colors red and green.
Her memo sparked outrage among parents and teachers. Several of them reached out to Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal group that focuses on religious freedom, which sent a letter to the school district pointing out that the Christmas ban violates the US Constitution.
The school district immediately took action, reversing the anti-Christmas policy, stating that Sinclair did not consult with administrators before enacting the religious themed policy.
Sinclair, who entitled herself "The (Unintentional) Grinch," stated in the memo the school needed to be "inclusive." She also highlighted teachers' "good intentions," but felt the policy was necessary for "everyone's comfort."
The list of "not acceptable" practices included:
- Santas or Christmas items (clipart) on worksheets
- Christmas trees in classrooms
- Elf on the Shelf - that's Christmas-related
- Singing Christmas Carols
- Playing Christmas music
- Sending a Scholastic book that is a Christmas book - that's Christmas-related
- Making a Christmas ornament as a gift - This assumes that the family has a Christmas tree which assumes they celebrate Christmas. I challenge the thought of, 'Well they can just hang it somewhere else.'
- Candy Cane - that's Christmas-related. Historically, the shape is a 'J' for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.
- Red/Green items - traditional Christmas colors
- Christmas videos/movies and/or characters from Christmas movies"
The principal's "acceptable" list included items such as snowmen, snowflakes, and "Yetis" and "Olaf" (the snowman from the movie Frozen). Sinclair issued an apology for bringing negative attention to the school. She also deemed her decision a mistake.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel said, "The First Amendment does not require elimination of Christmas. Nothing prohibits public schools from teaching objectively about Christmas or other holidays with religious significance, from displaying religious and secular Christmas symbols side-by-side or singing sacred and secular Christmas songs together."
"The First Amendment prohibits censorship based on religious viewpoint. This outrageous three-page memo by Principal Sinclair was not based on ignorance of the law but hatred toward Christianity and Christmas. Principal Sinclair should issue an apology to her teachers and staff," Staver said.