Can our newspaper wish students a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah”?

Every week, Student Press Law Center attorneys answer a frequently asked question about student media law in “Ask SPLC.”

Can we wish students a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” in our student publication?

Generally, yes. Your school officials or even some of your peers may be quick to cite the separation of church and state as rationale for student media to stay away from any specific season’s greetings, but the reality is more complex than that. 

The law does prohibit the government, including your public school, from establishing or favoring a particular religious belief system, but the key thing to remember is that students are not government employees, and the school publication is not the official speech of the school. Laws that prevent a teacher or other school official from expressing their religious views on the job don’t prohibit student journalists from creating or including content regarding religious beliefs or religious holidays, and that remains true even if the school helps to fund the student publication. Student journalists have the same rights to discuss these topics as they do to discuss anything else.

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