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Connecticut Ruling Favors Chanukah and Christmas in Public Schools

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Connecticut Attorney General Harold M. Mulvey has ruled that public schools in the state must obey a United States Supreme Court order against religious prayers, but he held also that such holidays as Christmas, Easter, Chanukah and passover could be celebrated in the state’s public schools.

The Attorney General issued the ruling at the request of William J. Sanders, the state Education Commissioner. Among other school boards, that of Norwalk asked for a specific ruling. While holding that periods of meditation during classroom hours were permissible, he ruled that “neither the reading of the Bible nor the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, or any other prayer, as part of a formal religious exercise, is permitted.”

In his lengthy ruling, the Attorney General said he had felt “that we should mention celebrations which presently take place in our schools on days or periods which also have a religious meaning to certain groups of our people, for example, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Chanukah, Passover and St. Patrick’s day.” Concerning these, he wrote:

“It seems clear that, although these celebrations may have had their original impetus in the religious tenets of a particular group, they have become so interwoven with the fabric of life of all our people that they are a civic rather than a religious observance insofar as our public schools are concerned.” He held that “the fact that these days or periods may also have a deep religious significance to a particular group does not bar these celebrations.”

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