During the holidays West Point military academy has a "holiday celebration", where their choir sung many traditionally secular holiday songs, sleigh bells, marshmallow world etc. However they also song Rudolph the red nose reindeer and at least one song I believe had some non-secular lyrics, but the lyrics the snippet I saw didn't include anything Christian (I think joy to the world? I don't recall now). They were singing in a church.

West Point is a military academy under the Department of Defense, so presumably it's still bound by separation of church and state. Thus any choir the spent money funding I would think needs to be careful about not explicitly celebrating Christmas. I'm curious what leeway they have to fund a choir that has 'Christmas' songs in their list, before they open themselves up to complaints of violating church and state. For that matter if they had done more Christmas music, really blatant celebration of Christmas instead of the holidays, and someone went out of their way to cause trouble over the lack of separation would there be any actual legal recourse, or would it not be an actual violation of the rules about separation of church and state?

Most of their songs were clearly chosen to be secular holiday songs, so does the number of songs matter, can they get away with a few christian only ones? Rudolph the red nose reindeer was obviously a reference to Christmas, but a mostly secular aspect of Christmas tradition, is the lack of religious importance to Rudolph relevant in being able to address it etc?

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    Probably not. You want to force Jews to sing "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"? – Cicero Dec 29 '15 at 23:02
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    And how would any of this relate to West Point's chapel and chaplains? – phoog Dec 30 '15 at 1:30
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    Which chapel? The Cadet Chapel or the Post Chapel or the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Chapel or the Jewish Chapel or the Old Cadet Chapel or the Interfaith Center or the Orthodox Chapel? – jqning Dec 30 '15 at 4:49
  • @jqning I don't know, I only saw it on tv briefly. It did seem to have a menorah hanging in the corner though. – dsollen Dec 30 '15 at 14:19
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    This 1997 article from Duke Law J. examimes the related question of whether public schools may have students study and perform religious choral music. The paper's thesis is yes, they may. The author says (p. 1115) that the issue "is difficult because the Supreme Court has never addressed the issue and because [...] the body of Establishment Clause precedent is confusing at best." Of course, it is possible that something has changed in the past 20 years. – Nate Eldredge Jul 25 '16 at 22:13

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