Like much of the pre-Christmas hype that used to come only after Thanksgiving, cries of a “War on Christmas” began early this year.
This time, public school policies concerning religious holidays got caught in the crosshairs. Charges have been leveled in response to the Montgomery County, Md., Board of Education’s vote (7-1) to remove any mention of religious holidays on days that school is out. The action came after a complaint from a Muslim group that its holidays were not recognized as an occasion for school closure.
We live in a country that rightly prevents government endorsement of religion while protecting religious exercise. Indeed, public schools must accommodate the religious needs of the students without advancing religion itself.
In this spirit, the following policy guideline on excused absences for religious reasons was endorsed several decades ago by a slew of education and religious groups, including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and has enjoyed the widespread approval and acceptance by school officials and religious liberty advocates alike: