Want some interesting tidbits for the upcoming holiday and Christmas parties? Try this quiz—you may be surprised at some of these answers. Bob Brown from Gallagher & Kennedy put this quiz together. It’s kind of tough. Do you have what it takes?

History Quiz – True or False?

1. Sol Invictus (“The Unconquered Sun”) was a Syrian god who was later adopted as the chief god of the Roman Empire under Emperor Aurelian. His holiday is traditionally celebrated on December 25, along with several pagan gods associated with the winter solstice.

2. In Scotland in the 1600’s, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland discouraged observance of Christmas.

3. In the 17th century, the Puritans had laws forbidding the celebration of Christmas.

4. In Colonial America, the Pilgrims of New England disapproved of Christmas.

5. According to historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday, spearheaded by Charles Dickens. In A Christmas Carol, Hutton argues, Dickens characterized Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, in contrast to the increasingly unpopular community-based and church-centered observations of his time.

Answers: (1 – 5: all True!)

Current Legal Quiz

6. Under the Constitutional doctrine of “Separation of Church and State” it is legal for public schools to prohibit teachers and students from saying Merry Christmas.

7. Students may legally sing religious Christmas carols in public schools.

8. Students may study the religious origins of Christmas and read the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ in public schools.

9. Students have the right to distribute religious materials such as Christmas cards containing bible verses in public schools.

10. Students have a constitutional right to be exempt from activities with a religious component.

What do you think? Make sure you’ve marked your answers on something, and just scroll down to find out whether you were right or wrong.










  • Answers: (1 – 5: all True!)
  • 6. This is false for two reasons: The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the United States Constitution or in the Bill of Rights. That phrase is quoted from a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Marbury Baptist Church assuring them that they could freely practice their religion because the government would not be allowed to establish an official “state church”. Also, numerous courts have held that students and teachers alike have the right to free speech, which includes religious speech. The Supreme Court declared that teachers and students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Guidelines issued by U.S. Secretary of Education Riley (under President Clinton) state “students therefore have the same right to engage in… religious discussion during the school day as they do to engage in other comparable activity.” So long as the teacher is not attempting to use their position of authority, a teacher may use that phrase, say “Happy Hanukah”, or “Seasons Greetings!”
  • 7. (True) During school activities, such as choir, Christmas programs, and other events in public schools, students can sing such carols without offending the U.S. Constitution. Courts may look to whether the school has a secular purpose for initiating religious expression; for example, advancing students’ knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage and the opportunity for students to perform a full range of music, poetry, and drama. In McGowan v. Maryland (1961), the Supreme Court held that some government involvement with religion does not violate the Establishment Clause if it has a secular purpose and effect. Thus, no court has ever ruled that public schools must ban the singing of religious Christmas carols.
  • 8. (True) Students may study the religious origins of Christmas in the classroom without offending the Constitution. In Stone v. Graham (1981) the Supreme Court held that “the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.” Other Federal courts defined “the term ‘study’ to include more than mere classroom instruction; public performance may be a legitimate part of secular study. In addition, the Supreme Court has noted, “[I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.” The Supreme Court has explained that the “study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education,” is constitutional under the First Amendment.
  • 9. (True) Students may share Christmas cards containing religious messages at school on the same terms as non-religious material. In Morgan v. Swanson (2011), for example, the Fifth Circuit upheld an elementary school student’s right to distribute “candy-cane shaped pens” and “a laminated card entitled the ‘Legend of the Candy Cane,’” which “explained the Christian origin of candy canes, to the same extent other students were allowed to distribute other gifts to classmates at the annual “winter break” party. Regardless of grade level, students have “the First Amendment right … to express a religious viewpoint to another student without fear.”
  • 10. (True)


As we noted above, the historical facts about “Christmas” are far from being strictly a “Christian” holiday. The beauty of our Constitutional system is richly expressed by allowing the full range of “free religious” speech on this diverse holiday.

In a misguided rush to avoid giving offense, some school administrators are depriving students of the opportunity to understand the full historical importance of Christmas. To delete the Christian element from the story of Christmas distorts the holiday beyond recognition. Or, as one Supreme Court Justice wrote, “In Anglo-American history, at least, government suppression of speech has so commonly been directed precisely at religious speech that a free-speech clause without religion would be Hamlet without the prince.”

For generations, American public schools have freely celebrated the Christmas season by decorating classroom bulletin boards and Christmas trees, learning traditional carols for the annual Christmas program, and exchanging Christmas cards and gifts with classmates.

Contrary to the very essence of free speech, certain groups opposed to public religious expression have spread misconceptions—about the legalities of celebrating Christmas in public schools. Fearing harassment, many school officials replaced religious references to Christmas with secular symbols. While many do so unknowingly, school officials unfortunately have begun a new “tradition” of trampling the constitutional rights of students and teachers to seasonal religious expression in our public school system.

As the answers to our historical and legal quiz demonstrated above, public school administrators who insist on replacing nativity scenes and angels with only snowmen and reindeer are violating the Constitution. Some school officials have gone so far as to prohibit the common greeting “Merry Christmas” and, instead, insist that teachers and students merely say “Happy Holidays” and refer to the Christmas break as “Winter Break” or “Sparkle Season.” This legal overreach is not supported either by historical fact or by the laws of our land.