Questions From Readers
◼ Why do children of Jehovah’s Witnesses not do holiday-oriented classwork, since other students carry out such assignments regardless of their religion?
Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage their children to be diligent and cooperative students in school. But they feel it is incompatible with the family’s deep-seated religious convictions for their children to engage in classwork based on holidays that they do not celebrate.
Public schools are open to all children, regardless of whether their families worship at a church, synagogue or temple, or have no religion. Sometimes class assignments are linked to a religious or national holiday that most people in the community celebrate. For instance, in many lands classwork during December incorporates Christmas music or art. Students from Jewish, Hindu or other non-Christian families may not celebrate Christmas at home. Still, some of them feel that they can sing holiday songs or draw pictures of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and the like. They might reason that they do so objectively, while not celebrating Christmas.
Other students ask to be excused from such holiday work. Jewish students might do so because of what Jehovah God commanded ancient Israel. “When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations.” “Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did those nations worship their gods? I too will follow those practices.’ You shall not act thus toward the LORD your God.”a
As a specific example (which has been misapplied to decorating a Christmas tree but actually refers to making an idol), Jehovah said: “It is the work of a craftsman’s hands. He cuts down a tree in the forest with an ax, he adorns it with silver and gold, he fastens it with nails and hammer.” That was not to be viewed as a mere artistic effort. Jehovah pointedly commanded: “Do not learn to go the way of the nations.”b
Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses go to school because they want to obtain a reasonable education. A teacher, perhaps as an art exercise in the winter, might ask all students to draw a scene or work on some other project involving deer, snow and fir trees. If this was simply an art exercise and was not connected with Christmas, few Witness parents would probably object. But Jehovah’s Witnesses feel conscientiously obliged to abstain from school activities that conflict with their Bible-based understanding of God’s will. They seek to apply in their lives what Jesus said: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) So if the assignment called upon the students to share in unbiblical holiday activities, Witnesses would abstain even if this puzzled others with a different viewpoint. But, in accord with freedom of religion and their desire to be good students, Jehovah’s Witnesses may ask to do an alternative exercise that would not have religious aspects.—Compare 1 Peter 4:3, 4.
Many considerate schoolteachers have appreciated receiving the clear explanation of such matters presented in the brochure School and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In part, this helpful publication says: “Jehovah’s Witnesses for conscientious reasons do not take any part in these holiday activities—whether it be singing, playing music, acting in plays, marching in parades, drawing pictures, attending parties, eating and drinking, and so forth. Yet, at the same time, we do not object to others celebrating such holidays nor try to hinder them. We appreciate it very much when teachers kindly excuse our children from participation in all activities that in any way commemorate these holidays.”—Page 21.