Courts Allow N.J. Public School To Skip Holiday Carols

The Supreme Court has refused to hear a New Jersey case dealing with public schools and religious music, leaving in place a district policy omitting celebratory religious music from school holiday performances.

South Orange-Maplewood School District allows religious music to be included in classroom instruction but not in public performances.

In 2004, Michael Stratechuk, a Christian parent of two students, challenged the policy claiming it denied his children their religious liberty rights. Represented by the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor-based right-wing legal outfit, Stratechuk argued that the school violated the Constitution by being hostile to religion, particularly Christianity.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Stratechuk v. Board of Education that the school policy is constitutional and that federal courts should generally leave these decisions to school officials.

“Many decisions about how to best create an inclusive environment in public schools, such as those at issue here, are left to the sound discretion of the school authorities,” the three-judge panel held. “We see no constitutional violation in Policy 2270 or its application in this case.”

The Supreme Court, in declining to hear Stratechuk’s appeal, leaves this decision in place.

School Superintendent Brian Osborne said the policy “was adopted to promote an inclusive environment for all students in our school community. We have always felt our policy was constitutional and are pleased with the outcome.”