1. Education
Jerry Webster

Is Thanksgiving a Religious or Civic Holiday?

By November 12, 2009

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Working in public schools, you quickly become aware of the fact that the separation of church and state has created problems with how we talk about and celebrate some holidays, especially Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.  We are clearly aware that Christmas and Easter are Christian Holidays, but we aren't so sure about Thanksgiving.

Ironically, Thanksgiving is the one holiday that we tend to treat as a quasi religious holiday.  We ask our kids to make lists of what they are thankful for.  We just don't state to whom or what we are supposed to be thankful.

As an ordained pastor, believe it or not, I find these exercises in mock religiosity rather offensive.  I don't particularly want a Baptist, a Mormon or a Muslim teaching my children how to pray.  They did quite well at my church, thank you.  I do want the Baptist, the Mormon and the Muslim talking about how they celebrate the holiday, and what it means to them.  I also want them to talk about how America welcomes people of different faiths.

There are people in our country who believe that the United States is a "Christian" Nation.  For those of us who are Christian, the fact that some of those people are also white supremacists is kind of scary.  The truth of the matter is that the most important framers of our constitution, Jefferson and Franklin, were Deists and not Christian at all.  They envisioned a country that was not Christian but was full of religious people.  It's probably the reason we still have such an active and vibrant religious life in America.

So, do us cranks a favor.  Teach about the Pilgrims' celebration.  Compare the ways your children celebrate Thanksgiving.  Honor the children whose families may not celebrate Thanksgiving.  But don't try to make your class a Sunday school class.


November 16, 2009 at 7:52 pm
(1) ateacher says:

I think it is completely disappointing how completely people, including yourself, have misconstrued the concept of church and state.

November 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm
(2) Anotherteacher says:

I was wondering about the same thing…

November 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm
(3) Teacher says:

Our Founding Fathers prayed for three hours before signing the Declaration of Independence
I always thought of US as a Christian country. It is blessed by such incredible beauty – in the Fall, Winter…
• The original fifty five founding fathers who wrote our Constitution were Christians, and they established our country on Judeo-Christian values.

• I am not trying to have a Sunday school in my classroom – goodness no!

• But who are we thanking for our blessings?

December 1, 2009 at 10:23 am
(4) Star says:

Who gives anybody the right to say this country is a Christian country?! This country WAS NOT founded by the Pilgrims; and I don’t believe the Native American were Christians. Let’s get this straight. As a Principal at a public school in Long Island, NY, I would love to see all religious holidays banned from schools. They belong in the churches, synogogues, mosques, and all houses of worship, but certainly not in the classroom. For years, holidyas have made children of different faiths feel excluded and isolated. Enough is enough. Separation of church and state should be enforced.

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