I hope you had a very merry Christmas! I sure did.
I prefer to say “Merry Christmas” to the people I meet, rather than “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” But that’s my Christmas-celebrating Christian nature showing through. Some people are quick to point out that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but since a poll found that 96% of Americans celebrate this holiday, I find it difficult to get all that excited over catering to less than 5% of the population.
I guess that makes me one of the horribly oppressive people trying to force my religion on others. At least that’s how anti-religious groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) view it. You can see this sentiment reflected in the way they attack anything Christmas-related displayed on public lands. Bill O’Reilly has been talking about the “War on Christmas,” and John Gibson wrote a book about it. They both cite examples of how companies and stores are dropping “Merry Christmas” in favor of the more generic “Happy Holidays.” Unlike these two gentlemen, I don’t have any problem with companies doing this. A company does business by appealing to as many customers as it can, and the generic greeting is more inclusive. But it appears that growing numbers of people are angered over the blander, non-holiday-specific greeting. I really couldn’t care less. For me, Christmas is primarily about getting together with family and friends, and that’s more important to me than any present I might give or receive, so I don’t care how the stores greet me. They are free to say whatever they think will bring them more customers.
But I do care when the government tries to stifle Christmas. Most often, people who are against the practice of religion in public life will point to the First Amendment as the reason why government shouldn’t have anything to do with religion. And when they say “religion,” what they really mean is “Christianity.” The ACLU has been instrumental in fighting against any public display of Christian symbols. A tiny cross on the Los Angeles County seal had to be removed because it might *gasp* lead to the Inquisition! Well, probably not. But the ACLU campaigned aggressively against it. “No establishment of religion,” they reasoned. Funny that they didn’t mention anything about the much larger image of the goddess Pomona which appeared on the same seal. Apparently symbols of ancient Roman and modern pagan religions are acceptable, but Christianity is strictly verboten to the ACLU. It’s no wonder that the organization is sometimes referred to as the “Anti-Christian Liberal Union.”
What does the First Amendment actually say about religion? It is rather straightforward: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So what part of “Congress shall make no law…” applies to the Los Angeles County seal? If the Ten Commandments are posted in the Alabama State Supreme Court building, how does that violate the First Amendment and its prohibition on Congress passing laws?
The real tragedy is how school districts, scared spitless over the possibility of lawsuits from the ACLU and other anti-Christian groups, banish any mention of Christmas in schools. You can’t call it the Christmas Holiday — it’s now “Winter Break.” Any religious carols are banned out of fear that they might be construed as an establishment of Christianity in the United States. Each Christmastime brings more news reports of kids being told that they can’t say “Merry Christmas” at school, or stories like the one of a 7th grader being kicked out of the school dance because he had the audacity to dress up as Santa Claus. I have to ask again, what part of “Congress shall make no law” applies to sanitizing public schools until no taint of Yuletide spirit remains?
And what about the second phrase in the First Amendment — the one the ACLU always seems to forget? You know, the part that says, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”? It seems to me, and to a growing number of Americans who don’t like the idea of Christmas being excised from the public square, that the ACLU’s anti-Christmas lawsuits constitute an attempt to get government to prohibit the free, public exercise of one particular religion.