Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The War on Christmas

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Today's blog entry features the hotly debated (mainly just by far-right bloggers and Bill O’Riley ) “War on Christmas”. I have decided that prior to telling you what my feelings are about this blood-less combat; I will first fill you in on certain truths that are directly relevant to this issue. Here goes:

Let us start with the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution (where all of this “controversy” stems from):

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Now, after reading that nice long sentence, you are probably wondering what it means, or, you assume you know what it means because you read blogs, the paper, or listen to talk radio. Probability is that you actually do not know what that statement means.

There are really two different manners in which this statement can be taken: that of the government’s interaction and that of a private entity. Let us start with the Governments…

The way the Amendment is written is that the government shall neither help nor harm a religion. It makes no reference as to mentioning a religion or not, nor does it make any statement about what counts as a religion. That has always been left up to the courts. Now, according to the courts, the government has certain areas that are no-nos for religious interaction and others that are allowed. For example, while Bush has every right to wish us a “Merry Christmas”, he does not have the right to force us to celebrate Christmas. The court case Lemon v. Kurtzman created what is known as the “Lemon test” which tells us in what manner the government and religion can interact:

"1) The governments action must have a legitimate secular purpose;

2) The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion

3) The government’s action must not result in excessive entanglement with religion”

Using this test, we see that certain things like concerts (provided they have multi-religious songs), teaching about a religion, and certain things like that are not in violation of the establishment clause. We also see that using Christmas Trees to collect donations (such as scarves or money) is not a violation. However, we see that having religious monuments set up (of only one religion) does violate this test provided that monument is set up in a manner that is not really for history.

The Establishment clause says nothing about private companies or persons. If you wish to wish somebody a “Merry Christmas”, be they Christian, Wiccan, Jewish, Muslim, or even an Atheist, that is your right as an American. However, you should not be offended when I wish you a “Fantastic Festivus” back. Congress is the only thing banned from doing certain things with religion. Some stores do not wish people “Merry Christmas” and instead use the phrase “Happy Holidays”: This is the stores choice, and in no manner is the store forced to do this.

Currently, some far-right bloggers and several talk show hosts (Bill O’Riley being the most obvious) have decided that the ACLU and we secularists are really leading a war against Christmas. I can not really understand there arguments.

The idea that stores using this phrase is an attack on Christmas by secularists surprises me. We do not support government and religion; frankly, we don’t give a damn about what a private entity does with religion. Neither the ACLU, nor any secular group that I know of attempts to force any group or person or company to be non-religious: In fact, we encourage each and every person to express their religious beliefs to the fullest. The use of “Happy Holidays” by stores is their decision which they believe stems from PC. PC is not our problem, so please stop saying we caused it.

Schools banned from setting up religious memorials

I did not write the Constitution, nor did any person now alive. We do not defend what we believe is right; we merely touch and defend what is in the Constitution of These United States. According to the Courts, the Lemon test does not allow the religious memorial if it is dedicated solely to the religion. Now, if you were setting up something dedicated to our history as persons, and includes the Ten Commandments as a reference to the morality of law that is ok. However, if you just had the Ten Commandments, and nothing else, that is a violation of the establishment clause.

I have read many different takes on this “War” and I have basically seen that there is not one. We do not want to ban Christmas, in fact, we wish for it to be spread to all persons who want to celebrate it, and that its message be spread to all humans. We simply have the desire to uphold the Constitution and what it stipulates in the establishment clause. All in all, we really just want you to be who you are, and to keep the government from making you something else

My last message to you is

Have a Merry Christmas this year,

Be kind to your fellow humans
Call your family and friends, even if for a few moments
And help those less fortunate then yourself

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