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Pa. School Bans Halloween Over Religious Fears

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

One school has put a Halloween ban in place after a brewing religious controversy spooked school administrators into denying the October celebration.

The principal of Inglewood Elementary School in Towamencin Twp., Pennsylvania, sent a letter to parents clarifying the district's policy on Halloween. The letter stated in part that the school will not "sponsor or support the celebration of Halloween parades" in order to respect those who believe the holiday has religious overtones, Philadelphia's WPVI-TV reports.

Each principal will be allowed to determine if Halloween is celebrated in the classroom, but why is the district putting a stop to district-wide celebrations like Halloween parades?

Parents Outraged Over Halloween Ban

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?

Establishment Clause and Halloween

This is not the first time that a school has barred Halloween over religious concerns. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, in 2012, Skokie, Illinois' school district put the kibosh on Halloween "citing religious and economic concerns."

While leveling the playing field economically sounds like a noble goal, the fight over Halloween as a religious issue is a bit more fraught with complications.

The First Amendment's Establishment Clause guarantees that government entities like public schools may not endorse or prefer any religious beliefs or become "excessively entangled" with religion -- even if it only means not holding graduation ceremonies at a nearby church.

WPVI reports that for some parents who may have worried that this Halloween celebration clashed with their families' religious beliefs, the school's Halloween ban is welcome news. Now that the celebration has been cancelled, they won't have to pull their kids out of school around Halloween.

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