Assemblyman Ronald Dancer’s bill to “clarify” the way public schools treat religious holidays is just another ill-advised salvo in the War on the First Amendment.
According to a State GOP press release, Dancer’s bill would allow school districts to “observe nationally recognized holidays without the fear of litigation” by requiring all “nationally recognized” holidays to be observed with religious symbols and music.
This may be a feel-good initiative for Dancer, but it is ill-advised and a waste of time and money on many levels.
To begin with, the First Amendment is a federal, not a state law. Even if Dancer’s legislation is passed and signed by the governor (who coddles the religious right), it will not stop litigation by those who feel their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.
And what constitutes a “nationally recognized” religion? Unfortunately, the only nationally recognized religious holiday is Christmas, although it has become more of a commercial endeavor than a religious one. Who decides what a “nationally recognized” religion is? The courts? The legislature? The school board? Is Islam a nationally recognized religion? Is Wicca? Is Judaism? None of them have a federal or state holiday.
The separation of church and state must be absolute. Secular songs like “Frosty the Snowman” in a sixth grade winter assembly should be allowed. “Silent Night” is best left to the church.
I’m going to make a leap of faith and assume Dancer is a Christian. He would be better off spending his time promoting Christian values by working to reduce the obscene poverty rates in New Jersey, eliminating gun violence, and saving the Earth that God gave to us by supporting clean energy and anti-pollution legislation. But those initiatives don’t play well within his party, so like many of his colleagues, Dancer is promoting a bill that makes his supporters feel good, but in the end accomplishes nothing.