There is controversy and confusion in the town of Mesquite, Nev., after teachers and staff members at the local high school were told to stop saying, “Merry Christmas,” according to an attorney with a conservative advocacy group.
Teachers at Virgin Valley High School are reportedly not allowed to post any religious Christmas decorations, and are prohibited from engaging in other Christmas activities as part of an agreement with the Nevada American Civil Liberties Union, according to Alliance Defense Fund attorney David Cortman.
He said the agreement was in response to the ACLU’s threat of litigation.
“Employees, including teachers, can’t even say the words, ‘Merry Christmas,’ in the school,” Cortman told Fox News Radio. Students, however, are still permitted to use the traditional holiday greeting.
But Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada ACLU, told Fox News Radio they are not to blame and never threatened to sue the school.
“Saying Merry Christmas does not create a problem for us,” he said. “There are certain people perhaps who want to make this into a conflict where personally I don’t see where there is any need for conflict.”
Several dozen parents and students protested the ban at a rally outside the school, acknowledging school officials were caught in the middle of the controversy.
“They took away prayer, now they’re saying you can’t say ‘Merry Christmas,’” Narvin Ruth told the Mesquite Local News. “It’s about time we took our rights back.”
The newspaper wrote an editorial on the controversy, calling on the ACLU to “back off this one, and allow our children to revel in the joy of Christmas for as long as adolescence will allow it.”
“Merry Christmas is a friendly greeting which acknowledges the season, and nothing more,” the editorial read. “Christmas symbols pose no more danger of converting people to Christianity than images of Santa and Frosty leading to obesity.”
A spokeswoman for the Clark County School District said they were not aware of any controversy at the school and suggested the episode might be a misunderstanding.
"The Clark County School District respects the diversity of our school communities and follows established parameters for public entities. Since holiday greetings were not conveyed with a public address system and in an assembly, some people may have assumed that all speech on campus is restricted,” read a statement released by spokeswoman Cynthia Sell. “That is not true, as non-instructional time provides opportunities for people to interact."
However, Virgin Valley’s principal, Dave Wilson, told the local newspaper, “We cannot promote religion in any way, shape or form. It has to be ‘happy holidays.’ ”
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter@ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.