Cannon County School Board Unanimously Replaces ‘Winter Break’ with ‘Christmas Break’

Last week, when the Cannon County Board of Education (Woodbury, Tennessee) held its monthly board meeting, nothing very eventful happened until the board members discussed next year’s school calendar.

This is normally a quick, breezy process. Just approve it and move on.

But one of the board members was offended by what he saw on the proposed schedule:

“What is the possibility of calling Winter Break Christmas Break instead?” [Chris] Blackburn asked.

“I am frankly tired of being pushed around by people that want to take Christ and God and Christmas and everything out of the school system,” Blackburn said. “They want to take prayer out of school and they want to take it out before ballgames. I am in favor of this calendar as long as we call it Christmas break.

What the hell…?

Students and faculty members are welcome to pray on their own time, silently — no one has ever tried to stop them from doing that. Blackburn, who doesn’t appear to give a single damn about the Jewish and atheist and other non-Christian students in the district, is specifically saying here that his religion matters more than any other winter holiday.

At least someone else on the school board had the good sense to point that out to Blackburn:

Board member Nathan Sanders agreed.

“We put this (calendar) in the paper, on our website and it makes me wonder what kind of statement we are making,” Sanders said. “I don’t want to take the bully aspect here but those same people who wanted it called ‘winter break’ before can come back and we could address it at that time, but I share some of the same concerns (as Blackburn).”

The motion was made to change the name and the calendar was unanimously approved.

Okay, I was wrong. The entire school board is made up of spineless bigots who can’t see through their Jesus-tinted sunglasses.

Look, this isn’t the biggest problem a Christian school board has ever inflicted upon a district, but this sort of decision-making — the kind that disrespects the beliefs of many of the students because Baby Jesus might shed a tear — is the sort of mentality that leads to lawsuits and could cost the district (and, therefore, taxpayers) lots of money.

They can expect a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation shortly. And anyone in the area should take the issue up in person at their next meeting. School boards get away with shit like this all the time because they know so few people are paying attention.

If we let them do something this minor now, we have to wonder how they plan to push Jesus on the students later.

(By the way, the Cannon Courier reported on the meeting, but the article is behind a paywall. As if that could ever stop my readers from giving me all the details…)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • rwlawoffice

    Wait a second. When we are having the arguments about the war on Christmas, weren’t you the same person who has argued that Christmas is not a religious holiday and that it is celebrated by non Christians as well? Now when the school board wants to call the break for what it is, a time when the school closed so people can celebrate Christmas, you all of a sudden claim that it is a religious move?. I understand that the whole goal is to attack Christians here, but at least try to be consistent.

  • baal

    Um, Blackburn, Christ doesn’t belong in the school system. But for that comment, this isn’t that big a deal. His comment, however, makes it more than clear that what he wants is the government endorsing his religion so that he feels more comfortable in governmental buildings.

    I personally like having ganesh or nudes around. I doubt he’d be very happy were I to suggest either on should be referenced on the school year schedule.

  • Sven2547

    …you all of a sudden claim that it is a religious move?

    Considering that Blackburn specifically said it was about “Christ and God“, YES, I think it’s fair to say this was a religious move.

  • Sven2547

    Anything other than Christian-supremacy is spun as an attack on Christianity.

  • Mark W.

    Personally, I couldn’t care less if they called it Winter Break, Christmas Break or Scooby Doo Break, it pisses me off that they actually wasted time and taxpayer money, discussing and voting on such non issue so the insecure dipshits could make some sanctimonious religio-politcal statement. They’re probably the same Tea Party types that think the ebil guberment is out to steal all their nickels and waste them on health care, but see this as some patriotic stand instead of the waste it actually is.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Reading is fundamental….

    “I am frankly tired of being pushed around by people that want to
    take CHRIST and GOD and Christmas and everything out of the school

    I equate Christmas with Santa, Rudolf, Frosty the Snowman, and etc. I personally don’t care if they call it Christmas break, Xmas break, or Winter break. Unfortunately, Blackburn & Sanders do appear to take it personally and they have no qualms in expressing the need to make it religious in context. ‘Christ’ then ‘God’ then ‘Christmas’; the ordering is a parapraxis outlining intent. The only inconsistency is between your ability read and comprehend.

  • C Peterson

    What are you doing over Christmas break? I’ll be celebrating the winter solstice; what about you? Hanukkah.

  • Gus

    This is perhaps the dumbest exercise in Christian privilege I’ve ever seen.

  • abb3w

    No love for Agnostica, Human Light, Newtonmas, Festivus, Atheifest, the Pastafarian holiday “Holiday”…?

  • Art_Vandelay

    Which one has the orgies?

  • velveteenRabbit

    the fact that they’re even WORRIED about this rather than the fact that their only high school rates a 4.1 on the college readiness scale, only 21% of their students are rates as “proficient” in algebra. WOW. Let’s make sure they call it christmas break instead of winter break… that will make ALL the difference!

  • C Peterson

    Just got to ask more people.

  • Jay

    Why try to circumvent the paywall of the newspaper that reported this? The paper used its resources to produce an article that you want to read. Why shouldn’t you pay for it? Newspaper reporters are underpaid, furloughed, overworked, and always in danger of being laid off because people want to enjoy the fruits of their labor for free.

  • potatochip

    Who cares? It’s always been called the Christmas holiday because Christmas falls in the middle of it, same goes for Easter. Even as an atheist I don’t deny that Christmas exists as a concept.

    No one is forcing anyone to celebrate it, they aren’t saying non-christians have to attend school but christians get extra days off. I call it the Christmas holiday, I even celebrate Christmas and so do plenty of non-christians because it is a nice tradition to take time off, spend time with your family, decorate a tree and all the rest of it (except the midnight mass).

    “If we let them do something this minor now, we have to wonder how they plan to push Jesus on the students later.”

    I completely disagree, if you always make a big deal about stuff that doesn’t matter then no one will take you seriously when you complain about the stuff that really does matter.

  • flyb
  • ShoeUnited

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen you argue with Mr. Mehta directly. Ever. The break is Winter Break. You see, because it usually starts somewhere around the 20th of December and lasts well into January. Now, I don’t know how you Christers see your holiday, but the last calendar I looked at Christmas is only one day.

    And I know, I know, stores are starting to add Xismas crap all the way back into September. And Texas is trying to get Xismuss started somewhere in June. But for fuck’s sake, you only do your Xeesemess one day a year. We can’t do it every fucking day. We gotta eat!

    If your Xossmusk break is only on Xorgiman day, then fine. But when your Xbiz runs from June to New Years, this shit has got to stop. It’s a break, in the winter, usually starting on the solstice and running through the new year. Give it up already. Or I’m gonna rename XissXossMist into something you won’t like.

    Like international spooning day.

  • KMR

    What’s insulting about this whole thing is the explanation given for keeping the “Christmas Break” label. If they had just said, “Nah, not going to waste time talking about it. Everyone is used to that terminology, it doesn’t really mean anything to anyone, no complaints given and we’ll deal with it if someone makes one, etc, ” then no one probably would have thought much about it. But nope they turned it into an us verses them discussion and then decided to make a statement by keeping the label purely for outspoken religious reasons. Dumbasses.

  • El Bastardo

    Should the summer break become independence break on the U.S. since 4th of July happens in there?

    If you don’t make a big deal over the little things then no one will take you seriously later (see countless “but it’s been here for years” claims), and the little stuff does matter, because it’s not little stuff to everyone.

    The 29 christians in a class may not see an image of Jesus or a prayer in Jesus name as a big deal, but to the 1 non-christian, it is. That is why we must make it a big deal for everyone.

  • C.L. Honeycutt


  • Jeff

    Reasonable argument potatochip. Except: Would you make a reasonable bet there are Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Witnesses, etc in that school district who do not celebrate the religious part of “Christmas” break, just as you do? However, having the rather nonchalant attitude toward what we call it (admittedly, I have the feelings about the time of year as you do) may NOT be the same for them. To them, it may be an affront to their religion, and immediate “you mean something less” feeling. They just looked at everyone who isn’t a Christian and basically said “Sorry, you are second class”. Is the world going to end because of it? Probably not. Should we accept when one person (or group) denigrates another? Well, I don’t think so. Of course, it’s just my opinion, and I could be wrong.

  • ShoeUnited

    So why not call it Satan Break? We get a group of Satanists, get them to agree to celebrate Satan’s Day on the 25th. Bam. Hail Satan! Sing all the carols by Ozzy and stuff. It’ll be great! Roast dead animal by the fire, tons of liquor, little red pointy hats, people dressing up, and maybe some sex. People gathering together to praise their unholy host who saw to it to make sure humanity was cast out of Heaven so that they could enjoy this Earth that God punished us with. We could decorate the school in cutouts of Satan, flames, pitchforks, bifurcated tails. Have the kids chant little rhymes about Taffy Was a Welshman at the music program.

    How well do you think that’d blow over?

  • rwlawoffice

    I read and understood everything just fine. I understand what the school board member said. My comment was related to how Hemant made his argument. He based this as being wrong on the fact that other people celebrate Christmas, including atheists. So when the school board calls it a Christmas break this should not offend atheists regardless of the school board members motive. But it was an opportunity to bash the Christians so offense was taken.

  • Noki

    In most places, Hanukkah doesn’t fall during winter break. Here it starts a few days before Christmas and ends around January 5th. (That’s my birthday and I always hated going back to school on my birthday, unless it fell on a weekend. Now that I have kids, I’m glad they go back and I get a day of quiet for my birthday. lol)

  • skyblue

    Hmmm…so we have spring break and summer break but “winter break” is an attack on Christianity? “Winter break” almost certainly also includes New Year’s, and when I was in college, I think it went all the way up to MLK day in January, by which point Christmas is long over. So “winter break” seems like a perfectly appropriate name to me, but then I’m not looking at this through a nasty persecution complex.

    Kind of like how “happy holidays” is either a cheerful combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s wishes, or an evil attack on Jesus that will surely lead to it being illegal to be a Christian, you know, depending on who you ask…

  • kenofken

    The action itself may be trivial, but the sentiments that motivated it are not trivial or benign.

    The clearly intended message is “we don’t give a damn about pluralism or what the Constitution means. Our religion owns this country, and the rest of you better come to grips with that or get the hell out.”

    40 years ago, one could excuse “Christmas break” on the idea that nobody thought to honor diversity they didn’t have. This time around, it was done with deliberate intent to declare students of other faiths as second-class citizens who are there at the sufferance of Christians, not because they have any organic equal rights. That may or may not lead to worse actions, but when you look back on any pogrom or genocide, you find that actions like these are ALWAYS the first steps taken. It is a vicious precedent set for vicious reasons, and it matters because of that, not one word on a calendar.

    The irony is that Christians are staking out exclusive rights to a date on the calendar which has no plausible connection to the events of the Nativity whatsoever. It’s a complete rip off of pagan solstice. Reasonable conjecture on the Nativity would place it about a month ago.

  • curtcameron

    I personally am not offended by calling that time of year Christmas, but I can see how it would be offensive to a Muslim family whose kid goes to the school.

    I think Blackburn could have been within what’s legal if he had argued that “Christmas” is what the national holiday is called in the US, so why not call it that on the school calendar. He gave it away, however, when he mentioned Christ and God as his motivation..

  • PrimateZero

    Saturnalia has naked caroling.

  • kenofken


  • kenofken

    That’s already listed as “spring break.” !

  • PrimateZero

    Give them time… I’m sure they’ll think up something dumber.

  • ShoeUnited

    You don’t see Joe Klein caroling naked. Thankfully.

  • ShoeUnited

    Ha! Though if you take a closer look at the middle part, it’s interchangeable with Christmas too. :D

  • TiltedHorizon

    “regardless of the school board members motive.”

    The motive is the reason for the post, but ‘No’, lets not concern ourselves over ‘motive’, else your argument would be pointless. This coming from a ‘lawyer’….

  • invivoMark

    Huh… I found a link to this article under the dictionary entry for “petty.”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    What is Abbreviated Day? A celebration of English grammar or something?

  • busterggi

    “The entire school board is made up of spineless bigots who can’t see through their Jesus-tinted sunglasses.”

    Not spineless, brainless.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Not that these people aren’t entitled, insecure morons but to be fair, the government recognizing Christmas as a federal holiday lends them some credence. That’s the issue, first and foremost.

  • baal

    Admission by party opponent, advocate. Blackburn said the point was to put god right back up into the school. Pointing out an opponent’s admission is perfectly valid and not appropriate for you to be offended at.
    “Your honor, the defendant is holding the smoking gun”
    “I Object!”
    “on what basis?”
    “I’m offended that the State is pointing out the smoking gun!”
    “Thank you, council. Sit down.”

  • Sweetredtele

    Why would non-catholics want it called Christ’s Mass anyway?

  • potatochip

    People do not have a right to not be offended.

  • Scott

    In most places? It isn’t celebrated on dates based on location. It is celebrated based on the Judaic calendar which is lunar rather than solar… and so it moves around as days get added and subtracted and a month added on occasion to keep the seasons in about the right spots. So Hanukkah can overlap Christmas or be an entire month before it.

  • potatochip

    I don’t think anyone is treating anyone as second class citizens. Everyone gets the holiday it just happens to be called Christmas.

    Just because A ALWAYS happens before B doesn’t mean A caused B and we should stamp out A at every possibility; every alcoholic started out drinking shandy so lets ban shandy and magically cure alcoholism! It’s a silly argument to suggest that this will lead to pogroms or genocide.

    Take god off your banknotes and out of the thing you say at school about “one nation under god” that’s far more important than renaming holidays.

  • Holytape

    How about Winter-Christmas-Solstice-Hanukkah-Ramadan-Chanukah-Feast-of-St.-Basil- Guru Gobind-Singh’s-Birthday-Not-Fourth-of-July-New-Year’s- Kwanzaa-Boxing-Day-Banquet-of-the-Rainbow-Shitting-Unicorn Break. We don’t want to leave anyone out do we?

  • closetatheist

    OMG. THIS GUY! I mean, generations of American children will look to him and proudly proclaim, “It was YOU! A male member of the majority religion who proudly took a stance against the evil and generally inclusive term “winter” and DEMANDED that your particular term, “Christmas” be exalted to its rightful position on the school calendar. YOU reminded all those who did not practice your particular holiday that they were not being considered! YOU took a neutral stance and turned it into a negative! YOU fought against the evil (minority) hordes who advocated acceptance of all children’s holidays and reinstated your own! YOU WERE BRAVE. YOU WERE INCONSIDERATE. AND YOU WERE VICTORIOUS.”

    It’s sad that this guy thinks this was the best way to spend the board meeting. What else did they accomplish? Ordering nativity scenes for the schools’ front lawns?

  • C Peterson

    That was my first reaction to the wording, too. But she is referring to the fact that the actual dates of winter break vary from school to school. One district might have a break that includes Hanukkah, another might not.

  • Bdole

    I’m still in the habit of calling it “Christmas Break” even when I don’t want to.
    I “celebrate” Christmas in that I recognize the 25th as a day to eat a glazed ham – something Jesus would never have done – and erect a tree inside my very home, similar to an Asherah pole which was condemned continually in the Bible.

  • Bdole

    You’re trying so hard and yet failing so often.

  • Holytape

    How dare you quote him directly! Don’t you know how Americanish works, “Christ and God.” mean Christ and God to religious audiences only. When those words are spoken to the broader public and especially if the broader is a judge at a constitution hearing, those words mean, “for completely secular purposes.”

  • Rich Wilson

    People in the US do have a constitutional right to not have their government agencies favoring one religious position over another.

  • baal

    It’d be easier for RW if he was trying to defend moral actions rather than christian privileges.

  • GCT

    It has nothing to do with offended feelings and more to do with the school endorsing a religion over others and over non-religion in general. So, although you are correct, it’s a complete non sequitur.

  • GCT

    I don’t think anyone is treating anyone as second class citizens.

    When one religion is promoted above others by schools (AKA the government) it is indeed treating the students (especially those of other faiths or no faith) as second class citizens and is injurious to the rights of all of us (including the Xians).