Taking Christmas from the Kids

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, December 11, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: A school music teacher in Washington State has come under fire after deciding to replace the word "Christmas" with "winter" in a song that was performed at a concert on Tuesday.

The teacher changed the lyric in Dale Woods' Carol from an Irish Cabin to read, "The harsh wind blows down from the mountains and blows a white winter to me."

We invited the school district on tonight's show. They declined, but they gave us this statement. "Bethel School District policy is to allow both secular and sacred music in holiday concerts. Three years ago, at the request of several Jehovah's Witness (search) families, the teacher substituted "winter" for "Christmas" in one song. Since that time, no one has objected. When it was brought to his attention this year, the teacher asked the students to vote. The majority decided not to change the word. This situation does not represent, 'an agenda' of any sort. It simply shows how challenging it is for public schools to meet the needs of all students and all parents."

Joining us now is Darla Dowell, who pulled her 7-year-old daughter from performing in the concert when the school refused to insert "Christmas" into the song, the original wording.

Darla, welcome to the program. Thank for being with us.

Tell us a little bit more about behind the scenes. You heard ... you got wind of this. You got involved. Walk us through what happened.

DARLA DOWELL, MOTHER: Well, when my daughter asked me why it wasn't OK to say "Christmas" in a song and I saw that they had replaced the word "Christmas" and handwritten the word "winter," I though that was a very legitimate question.

And so I contacted the school, and the principal had no idea about any of this going on. He had decided with the music teacher's input they would try to get the kids to relearn the song and insert the word "Christmas." That didn't happen.

They had a group of 7-year-old children vote on which word they would prefer to have, 7-year-old children that don't have any concept on what this issue really means.

I explained to them I didn't think that was fair to put this back in the kids' court, that they don't comprehend.

HANNITY: I cannot believe, Darla, and I'm with you on this, you can't even mention the word "Christmas" anymore. I mean, this is now madness.

But on top of that, I understand, and I read one news report, you went to this thing, you videotaped this thing.

DOWELL: I did.

HANNITY: And there were references to other holy days of other religions, correct?

DOWELL: That's correct. They sang a song titled Hanukah (search). And it was about the mighty miracle of Israel.

And I don't have a problem with that at all, Sean. I think it's great that we expose our children to different beliefs and tolerance of others' beliefs and diversity. I think that's great.

But at the same time, don't exclude my child's belief. They sent the message to my child that, you know, Christianity is wrong and she should be ashamed of celebrating Christmas. The school sent that message to my child, and I gave them an opportunity to correct that and they failed to do so.

ALAN COLMES, HOST: Darla, it's Alan. I applaud what you're doing, by the way.

DOWELL: Thank you.

COLMES: You and I -- I might disagree with Sean and conservatives on the issue of where that line between church and state is. But in this case, it is absurd political correctness gone amuck. And I applaud what you're doing to stand up to the school like that.

DOWELL: Thank you. I just wish that the school had received my message. They're acknowledging that they were wrong, but they weren't willing to change that.

And I tried to explain to them, you know, what kind of message is this passing on to your students? I have had no response from the superintendent or the principal or anybody about this.

COLMES: It's amazing to me they wouldn't even respond.

I'm Jewish. I grew up singing Christmas carols. What are they going to do next? Bing Crosby's I'm Dreaming of a White Winter?

DOWELL: It wouldn't surprise me. It would not surprise me.

I just wish that they would see the overall picture of what they're doing. The school says that they don't have an agenda, but when -- it's OK to sing Hanukah, and that's not being oversensitive. Then what's the purpose of excluding Christmas? What message are they trying to send our children?

COLMES: And Darla, so what happens now with this? You've stood up to the school. They've not responded. What do you do next?

DOWELL: You know, that's -- I'm exploring my options. I plan on holding the school accountable for their actions. You know, it's time that we sent a message to our schools that it's not OK to push their agendas on our children.

And it's about time that people start standing up. Everyone needs to stand up, make their voice heard. And just stand together and don't step down. We have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. And any...

COLMES: Have you had other parents participate with you? Are they backing you on this?

DOWELL: No. I have -- There's one parent that I know that is very supportive. No other parents have contacted me. I encourage that. I've had no support at the school itself from anyone.

COLMES: That's truly amazing that you're the only mother, the only parent that has stood up under this outrageous political correctness gone amuck, as I said before. And if you can say Hanukah, you should be able to say Christmas. We're not talking about nativity scenes here.

We're talking about children singing a song. And I think that's how you learn about other cultures if you're not Christian. I think singing these songs don't hurt anybody. It's amazing.

DOWELL: And let me point out to you, too, other songs which they had chose to sing, which could have incorporated the religious aspects of Christmas, they chose Greensleeves. And the Christmas version of that is What Child is This?

So I really do have to say that I strongly disagree with the school district's statement that there is no agenda.

HANNITY: Darla -- Darla, are you going to file a lawsuit?

DOWELL: You know, I'm exploring my options.

HANNITY: What about your daughter? What has been the reaction in school for her since you pulled her out?

DOWELL: I've talked to her every night to make sure that, you know, this is not falling back on her. She seems to be OK. Although she's been sick this week. She hasn't missed any days of school this entire school year, so I'm hoping that this doesn't have anything to do with what I'm trying to pursue.

And I've made clear to the school that this is my battle with them. Let my child be a child. She has nothing to do with this.

HANNITY: All right, Darla. Thank you.

COLMES: Darla, we wish you the very best. Thank you for coming on our show to tell us it and standing up for what you believe in. Thanks very much for being with us tonight.

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