Christmas is sacred.
It is not only a holiday. For the world’s 1 billion Christians, it is a holy day.
And that is why I was concerned when I learned recently that the new Georgia curriculum for kindergartners includes their being taught about Christmas.
The Georgia Board of Education has mandated that, as of August, Georgia’s kindergarten teachers are to teach lessons on American holidays, including Christmas — to the exclusion, apparently, of any other religious holidays.
The new curriculum will roll Christmas into a lesson plan with Labor Day, New Year’s Day and Memorial Day, as if Christmas were nothing more than a federal holiday.
The state’s proposal to teach Christmas to 6-year-olds sounds harmless at first. But it opens up a can of worms that, apparently, the school board never considered.
How does the state mandate the teaching of Christmas without any reference to its religious roots and core values? Christmas is not just a holiday, like Veterans Day or Presidents Day.
To the world’s 1 billion Christians, it is the birthday of Jesus Christ, their lord and savior.
And therein, as they say, lies the rub.
How can the state of Georgia demand the teaching of Christmas without any reference to its religious importance?
And if Georgia’s teachers are instructed to include Christmas (to the exclusion of other religious holidays), how does that not violate the Establishment Clause, the First Amendment’s caution against the government favoring one religion over another?
It is, of course, widely accepted that Georgia’s teachers can teach about Christmas at an age-appropriate time, about fifth or sixth grade.
In those grades, Georgia’s students can be taught about Christmas in a unit on comparative religion. Georgia’s teachers can teach Christmas as long as it is mentioned that other religions or cultures in America observe other holidays, such as Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Ramadan and Diwali.
Make no mistake: This is not about some mythical “war against Christmas.” No one is suggesting that Christmas be banished.
But the discussion comes down to two salient questions: Is teaching only Christmas to kindergartners good? And is it fair?
Which is a way of saying, “Is it good for Georgia’s kindergartners to be taught that there is only one holiday that is, in fact, a holy day to some Georgians?”
Is it fair to Georgia’s teachers to be asked to teach about Christmas without any reference to its Christian roots?
Is it fair (and good) to ask Georgia’s teachers to skirt the limits of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause?
Did the Georgia school board realize it was opening Georgia up to potential civil litigation from the ACLU or other groups questioning the planned kindergarten curriculum for this August?
Let’s leave the teaching of Christmas to a later grade, when it can be included with the other religious and cultural holidays of all Georgians.
Georgia should do what is good for its teachers and its students, as well as what is right in the eyes of the Constitution.
It seems to me, as well as many Georgians, that this would be a modest proposal.
Rabbi Steven Lebow is the spiritual leader of Temple Kol Emeth.