As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Dec. 8, 2004
A Republican state senator on Tuesday announced that he is contacting every school district in the state to “remind them and encourage them that the name Jesus can and should be mentioned in public schools” and that “Instead of taking ‘Christ’ out of Christmas, schools are encouraged to keep Him and Christmas in public schools.”
In an e-mail press release, Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque, said, “There is no question about it. Jesus of Nazareth can and should be taught about in our public schools. During this holiday season when there is such an uproar about taking the word ‘Christ’ out of Christmas, I want to remind our teachers that the Senate memorial passed in 1994 allows them to mention Jesus and encourages them to teach about Him as a historical figure, not only at Christmas time, but at anytime there is a discussion of historical figures of great importance.”
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Carraro said his decision to contact the schools came after he saw several television news features, including one on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, about efforts to remove religious aspects of Christmas celebrations in schools.
When given a copy of the press release, Peter Simonson, executive director of the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “This looks like a shameful attempt to encourage public schools to teach Christianity.”
Simonson said Carraro seemed to be coming “as close as possible without quite stepping over the line of church/state separation.”
Carraro in 1994 was the prime sponsor of Senate Memorial 83, said that Jesus’ name “be included in any comprehensive study of history,” and “it is permissible to mention the name Jesus of Nazareth in the public schools in the state of New Mexico.”
Memorials, while expressing the will of the Legislature, don’t have the force of law.
“Certainly schools can teach about Christ and his affect on western civilization,” Simonson said. “But equally, students should be informed about Mohammed and Buddha and Friedrich Nietzsche.”
Carraro denied he wants to make schools teach religion. “We’re not saying you have to bow down and pray and all that other stuff,” he said.
Carraro is scheduled to appear today to talk about the issue 11:45 a.m. on Issues and Answers, which broadcasts on a local religious television station, KCHF Channel 11.