I have been reading Forum letters about the young Jewish woman and her family who have been protesting the singing of Christmas songs in school. I feel obligated to come to their defense. I feel the community has treated them poorly (at least by the letters to the editor). This family is right in protesting.

Religion is a highly personal part of anyone's life. (School is not a highly personal part of anyone's life, by the way.) Religion is a very important part of our community and our nation. Religion is the foundation of all the freedoms we enjoy. One important right we enjoy is the freedom to choose when, where and how we worship our God.This family has chosen not to be obligated or pressured to sing songs praising the birth of Christ. We should respect that right. The singing tradition is, has and always will be considered by many people a form of worship. The community should respect these people's desire not to establish their religious beliefs at school. They shouldn't feel pressured to "worship" the birth of Christ if they don't want. In fact, no one should feel pressured to participate in any perceived religious event they don't find in their religious system, particularly in school.

I enjoy the choir's songs just as much as the next person. The tradition of singing Christmas songs is, alone, not wrong. What is wrong is when a community's needs outweigh the needs of the individual. Just because a majority would like to keep some old and loved traditions, it doesn't mean it is the right thing to do.

I have no argument with anyone wanting to look at the historical context of religion in the schools. But I don't want to see any individual feeling pressure from any forum to practice beliefs outside their faith. If that belief is outside the traditional Christian practice, we need to be charitable and empathetic. We should have tolerance for the wishes of this family. We should celebrate that we live in a country where the individual has rights to choose when and where they will worship their God.

Andy Swatsenbarg

Salt Lake City