Alliance Defending Freedom issued a letter last week to more than 13,000 school districts nationwide to explain constitutional protections for religious Christmas carols that some districts have censored due to misinterpretations of the First Amendment. The letter also backs up the legitimacy of schools participating in community service projects sponsored by religious organizations and offers free legal assistance to districts that need help.

"Schools shouldn't have to think twice about whether they can celebrate Christmas," said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "School districts can and should allow religious Christmas carols to be part of their school productions, and they can lawfully help impoverished children through community service projects such as Operation Christmas Child."

The letter cites recent examples of school districts in Wisconsin and New Jersey that wrongly censored Christmas carols in school productions and then changed their positions in response to public outcry and letters from Alliance Defending Freedom explaining that the inclusion of religious carols is permissible.

As the letter explains, "every federal court that has examined the issue has determined that including traditional Christmas carols and other religious music in school music programs fully complies with the First Amendment…."

Most recently, a South Carolina charter school reportedly cancelled its participation in Samaritan Purse's Operation Christmas Child, a toy drive for needy children, after a humanist group threatened the school with legal action.

"Public schools' confusion about this issue and the legalities of celebrating Christmas in other ways has been largely caused by inaccurate information about the Establishment Clause spread by certain groups opposed to any religious expression occurring in public," the nationwide letter states. "Alliance Defending Freedom has produced a Christmas Memo and a Christmas and Public Schools Myths/Fact Sheet that dispel these misconceptions…. Providing students an opportunity to put together a box of gifts for impoverished children throughout the world does not become unlawful just because the toy drive is sponsored by a religious organization."

"The Constitution both allows and protects the celebration of Christmas in public schools," added Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. "We hope the materials we are providing to school districts will help clear up the misinformation that groups attempting to cleanse all traces of religion from the public square have spread for far too long."

A December 2011 Rasmussen poll found that 79 percent of American adults believe public schools should celebrate religious holidays.

Note: Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.