Myth # 5 – The Christmas Holiday Myth: There is a Secular War on Christmas!
Well it’s that time of year and you’ll be hearing again this year, like previous years, that our secular society has removed Christ from Christmas. Christmas is supposed to be a season of peace, love and goodwill. I have to wonder then, why some conservative religious groups persist in using this time of year to divide Americans and stir up interfaith tensions.
And who’s leading the charge to boot Christ out of the sacred Christmas holiday? Why it’s those pesky church/state separationists that’s who. With all their talk of keeping government and religion separate it’s a wonder people aren’t wishing each other “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Wait – that is what’s happening! And the reason it’s happening is because America is religiously diverse but we still enjoy a good-ol holiday celebration. Some Americans will observe the holiday by attending religious services, others will celebrate in a mostly secular fashion, while still others will choose to ignore the holiday. And this is just the way it should be.
Our First Amendment’s religious clause means that, in spite of the fact that the majority of Americans are Christian, majority religious beliefs will not be forced upon minorities. However, this is just what many of the Religious Right want to do when they insist on displaying religious symbols in the public square. We look around and see numerous places for the public display of Christmas religious symbols: at Churches, on billboards, in shop windows, pretty much any place except public property. But this isn’t enough for many of the Religious Right.
Not being satisfied with all the available venues for displaying Christmas religious symbols, it’s obvious that the Religious Right have something else in mind when they complain that their rights are being trampled when they aren’t permitted to display religious symbols anywhere they like. The root of their discontent is they regard America as a Christian nation and government’s endorsement of their vision of the holiday should take precedent.
So what does separation of church & state have to say about Christmas? First, don’t expect government to celebrate Christmas for you. America operates under the separation of church and state. The government is constitutionally prohibited from promoting religious worship or elevating one faith over others. If you’re not satisfied with the way government celebrates Christmas go to a house of worship.
Next, remember that all religious and nonreligious groups must be treated equally. If a religious group is allowed to place a Nativity scene in front of City Hall, that means all other religious, and atheist, organizations have the same right. The First Amendment requires equal treatment for all points of view.
A few years ago, a group of humanists, non-Christian religions, and atheists insisted that their holiday displays be included along with a Nativity scene on display at a court house. The Christian group sponsoring the Nativity scene objected and a local controversy erupted. In an out of court settlement it was decided, and rightly so, that if one group was allowed a Christmas display then all groups should be allowed to display. So the front lawn of the court house ended up looking pretty bizarre with a half dozen or so different holiday greetings. Why Christians would agree on having one of their most deeply held religious icons on display next to Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer still baffles me.
The Board of Directors of the Delaware Valley AU Chapter wishes you a Happy Holiday, Happy Hanukah, Merry Chris……Whatever!