Open Letter to Middle School Principal

Note: Mr. Muscara’s e-mail address is

Dear Mr. Muscara:

I just read the story in the Hampton Union about your misguided decision to bar a student from a dance because he wore a Santa costume.

You, Mr. Muscara, are a small, weak man.

Contrary to your statement that “we have a separation of church and state,” what we have is a protection of religious practice. Congress shall make no law . . .. But you made yourself judge and jury.

Courts have ruled repeatedly that religious expression by students is not equal to a state endorsement of religion. ("…state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are ‘persons’ under our Constitution." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969) and “[It] can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the school-house gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for almost 50 years.” _Ibid. Finally, __The court rules that the Equal Access Act does not violate the First Amendment. Public schools that receive federal funds and maintain a “limited open forum” on school grounds after school hours cannot deny “equal access” to student groups based upon “religious, political, philosophical, or other content.” (Board of Education v. Mergens) _


In an apparent attempt to get the “interim” removed from your title through cheap publicity at a child’s expense, you expressly and capriciously violated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Mergens by denying “equal access” based upon “religious . . . content.”

As I said, enjoy your 15 minutes. They will be fleeting, and you will suffer a long time the consequences of your weak decision.


William T. Hennessy

[address withheld]