My interview with John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute
CINDY: John, thank you so much for being with us today.
JOHN: Thank you for having me on.
CINDY: We're having some people call in and tell us some things that are
going on around the area in relation to Christmas programs in local public schools, specifically the Harlem School District [in northern Illinois.]
And apparently they had a Christmas program and some parents called us upset because the use of the word Christmas was specifically banned, apparently, from the music...to the extent that instead of singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" they changed it to "We Wish You a Happy Season"..."O Christmas Tree" changed to "O Turkey Dear"...and "The Twelve Day of Christmas" they actually changed to a cute little song about McDonald's.
And it got us thinking, what exactly is allowed? What can be done as far as Christmas?
And that took me to your website, John, to the Rutherford Institute website. You have a thing there called The Twelve Rules of Christmas that goes into detail explaining about that. And I want to get into that, but first of all, John, for people who may not be familiar with it, what is the Rutherford Institute?
JOHN: It's an organization I started a little over 20 years ago to fight in the courtroom and educate on public issues.
We've taken on literally thousands of lawsuits over the years since then, and when we take a case we do not charge, that was the idea. I raise money from public donations and when we take on a case we make sure the client doesn't have to pay, because most people can't afford lawyers and they can't afford a court battle. We use attorneys across the country in all 50 states that donate their time, and without that, we couldn't move forward.
So that's what we do, and we specialize in religious freedom over the years and have won number of cases.
CINDY: Well John, it seems to me--maybe it's just my imagination--but it seems to me that this Christmas is worse than it's ever been, as far as the thought police and the politically correct police being out and about making sure that this holiday, which is in fact the celebration of Jesus' birth, is completely taken away from Christ and from any mention of Jesus.
Is that my imagination or do you see it getting worse in some quarters?
"...more ludicrous and crazy each year"
JOHN: It's happening all over the country. It's not getting better, it's getting worse, you're absolutely correct. You know, we really started seeing these cases worsen in the mid-90's. And I thought, with some Christian resurgence in the country and those kind of things, that maybe things would get better. But the thing is, it has worsened; the cases become more ludicrous and more crazy each year. There is, in my opinion, and I don't know where it's coming from, but if you want to use the word "agenda" in the public schools of America to completely secularize the public schools,and specifically, do away with any Christian references.
We had a weird case four or five years ago where in a Christmas play a child wore in a green and red scarf and the child was told he couldn't wear the scarf because it was the "Christian" color. So, it's gotten worse, I mean, just some of the examples you've given me of what's happening in your area. The "O Turkey Dear" is one of the craziest things I've ever heard, or singing hymns to McDonald's of all places.
So it's gotten worse, yeah. And the thing is that we emphasize with our Twelve Rules of Christmas, is that none of this stuff is illegal. You can celebrate Christmas in the schools, you can do all kinds of things.
"Offend no one"
What it is, and you nailed it, is political correctness, and the golden rule of our public schools which is "Don't offend anyone...offend no one." So that's what's happening. But I think, unfortunately, a lot of schools allow Hannukah and Kwaanza (but) at the same time they don't allow any kind of Christian references in songs.
CINDY: You were saying their mantra is "Don't offend anyone," but they ARE offending a sizable group of people, and that's the Christians.
JOHN: Exactly. I think the one group they don't care about offending is the Christians.
CINDY: Tell me about...as far as the Christmas songs...what is allowed?
JOHN: Well, you can have Christmas songs and Christmas plays, as long as it's part of a larger program where you have the so-called secular songs. You can sing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or the traditional Christmas songs. You can teach about it in the classroom, the Christmas holiday...you can mention the baby Jesus and Joseph and Mary...you know, Luke 2, in the New Testament--you can tell that, that's history. As long as it's taught objectively and it's part of history. So there's all kinds of things teachers and students can do.
Yeah, you can have Christmas programs in the schools. The only reason they're not occurring is that the schools just don't want to do it.
CINDY: What should parents do to battle this kind of political correctness that's run amuck?
"What it takes is a fight"
JOHN: Get educated, number one. I'd get a copy of "The Twelve Rules of Christmas" which you can download from our website, or call our toll-free number (1-800-225-1791) we can give you a free copy of the pamphlet. Take it to your teacher, take it to your schools right now, get it right away, and say "This is legal, why aren't you doing it?" I'd pressure 'em, get together a group of parents that are concerned...go to them in a group.
Usually it takes one parent that says, "Hey, I don't like these Christian Christmas songs," and they cancel 'em. Unfortunately, the Christians very seldom stand up.
So, what it takes is a fight. You have to get educated and go in armed with your pamphlets. You know, we've actually written schools and threatened to sue them, and the reason they back down is it's not against the law. And the reason we
send those letters or call schools is because parents call us and say, "We want you to stand up for us," and you have to stand up and fight back.
"One parent can change history"
CINDY: Do you know of instances where parents have gone to the school board and actually gotten things changed, just through being vocal?
JOHN: Yes. That's the key, being vocal. To show you, we just won a case in northern Virginia where the PTA ,to raise money, the parents could buy bricks to put around the flagpole, and they could put names or symbols. So a few parents bought the bricks for 25 dollars and put a little cross on them and their child's name, and one parent complained that they didn't like the crosses... and the school went out and took metal plates and put over those bricks.
We sued the school and won in court, but it took that one parent to change, then we had to go in and file a lawsuit to get those right back. But like I said, one parent can change history.