CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. In an effort to make sure turkeys don't ruin Thanksgiving or Christmas, a national civil liberties organization has compiled guidelines underscoring First Amendment protections covering religious freedom.
The Rutherford Institute, which has already received complaints from Chicago area parents upset about a school district's plans to replace its winter holiday program to a winter festival, has a hotline to help field complaints.
"Whether through ignorance or fear, Americans have developed a politically correct phobia when it comes to tolerating celebrations of or references to Christmas," John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said in a news release. "Unfortunately, these instances of intolerance have reached absurd proportions, and people's First Amendment rights are being trampled in the process."
In years past, nativity displays, Christmas carols, Christmas trees, wreaths, candy canes and even the colors red and green have been banned as part of the effort to avoid any reference to Christmas, Christ or God.
Whitehead said even Thanksgiving is not immune.
Last year, for example, institute attorneys were contacted by a concerned parent who complained administrator's at her child's school said they could not even mention the word "Thanksgiving" because "the pilgrims offended the Indians" and "Thanksgiving was never intended to be thanks to God!"
Another parent with children in the public schools was upset and concerned when she received a letter from school officials directing classroom mothers not to use plates and napkins with Thanksgiving printed on them at their children's fall parties.
"It seems like they are worried about offending just one person and are worried about law suits," the parent said. "In the past, this school has gone from 'winter' parties that banned red and green cupcakes and napkins, to banning any winter party in fear that it may be mistaken for Christmas."
To help clear up the confusion, the institute developed "The Twelve Rules of Christmas." The guideline is available at www.rutherford.org/resources/legal-12rules.asp.Individuals with legal questions or in need of legal assistance should call (434) 978-3888 or send an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.