CRF Blog

Halloween Bans in Schools

by Damon Huss

jack o lanternIs Halloween a religious holiday? And if so, does a school run afoul of the establishment clause of the First Amendment if it sponsors Halloween-themed activities?

Recently, the North Penn School District in Pennsylvania banned district-wide Halloween celebrations of any kind. The policy gives principals discretion whether to allow teachers to hold Halloween celebrations in the classroom.

In turn, the principal of Inglewood Elementary School in Towamencin Township, Pennsylvania, issued a letter to parents notifying them that, in deference to those who feel Halloween has religious overtones, the school will no longer sponsor Halloween parades. Many parents have voiced complaints. As reported at FindLaw’s Law & Daily Life blog:

After parents at Inglewood Elementary received the letter last week, many were outraged. David Braun told WPVI that he was “infuriated” and compared the Halloween ban to the debate of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.

Pennsylvania used to have a law that required schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but a federal court ruling in 2004 struck that law down as unconstitutional.

School prayer has similarly been blocked from public schools; U.S. Supreme Court rulings have found such a practice to violate the separation between the church and state described in the First Amendment.

But is Halloween the next bulwark issue for civil rights in schools? [more]

For more information about Halloween and the issue of keeping it separate from unconstitutional religious instruction, read “Holidays in Schools 2013: Halloween” by Dr. Margaret Hill for the California Three Rs Project, of which CRF is a co-sponsor along with the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum and the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.