Friday, December 24, 2004

The Santa Clause III: Attack of the Red Herring

Groups on right say Christmas is under attack

This week, Jerry Falwell, a conservative leader, told supporters that "so-called civil libertarians attempt to purge all vestiges of faith from the American public square." Also this week, Paul M. Weyrich, another conservative leader, proclaimed that "the campaign to eliminate Christmas from our society is well underway." Several conservative commentators have echoed the charge on television and radio and in newspapers.

The Rutherford Institute, declaring "Christmas Under Siege," cites a "growing tendency among public schools and government officials to ban references to Christmas or Christianity." The Alliance Defense Fund, which has been battling gay unions, sent letters to more than 6,700 schools as part of its "Christmas Project." It has 700 "allied attorneys" looking for cases where local authorities have sought to secularize the holiday, and it has found three dozen instances of bans on candy canes, prohibitions on Christmas colors, and cancellation of holiday celebrations that had Christian components.
I had a long chat with my folks the other day because I am just incensed at how these people are using requests that public school not have children sing religious Christmas carols in music class and Christmas concerts to make a claim their religious freedom is under attack. My dad was surprised at how strongly I felt these songs should not be included in public schools because I never complained about it growing up (originally because I was confused and thought there was something wrong with me for being confused, as I got older I just recognized that I have to respect and abide the faith of others because this is a country that is predominantly Christian). This being said, I'm seriously perturbed how the issue is used to get normally rational people hysterical over "secularists"/non-Christians trying to "rob them of their holiday". Now if you look at the lyrics of Christmas Carols like: "Hark! The Herald Angels sing", "G-d rest ye merry gentleman", "Go tell it on the mountain", "O Holy Night", "What Child is This?", "Away in a Manger", "O Come All Ye Faithful", they are overtly religious in nature (with references to Jesus as messiah/saviour and being Christian, etc.) and therefore completely inappropriate in class/choir/student concert of a public school.

Even to a non-Christian child who knows they/their families don't believe in these things, the message still appears to be one of endorsement of Christianity via celebration of Christmas through school/government. This goes beyond respecting someone else's faith, this is a de facto requirement to become engaged in religious activity in a public (government funded/supported) setting.

Singing the dreidle song or a Kwanzaa song, does not take away from the Jesus is saviour/deity/G-d message of Christmas as these songs are more akin to "Holly, Jolly Xmas" or "Jingle Bells". I can guarantee you the families protesting removal of a creche would be mighty displeased to see Satanic symbols at their child's school and if someone were to write/advocate a holiday song with lyrics like "In December, children, don't despair; Jesus is not the Saviour, of this please be aware" and lead public school children regardless of faith or lack thereof in class or a Holiday Concert, they'd lose their job, their house would probably be fire-bombed and I'm sure there would be lawsuits for the despair and anguish of the little Christian children.

No one is trying to discourage, let alone prevent, anyone who freely chooses to do so from celebrating Christmas. It is, however, a religious holiday (Independence Day is a historical holiday; Christmas is not and it would be incorrect/disrespectful to treat it as such) and, like other religious holidays (including Chanukah, Passover and Easter), shouldn't be celebrated in public schools because children are a captive and impressionable audience. It is possible to acknowledge a holiday without actively celebrating it.

Your right to freedom of expression does not supercede the rights of others to freedom of religion; imposing your religious beliefs on others is an infringement/violation of theirs. The people complaining that Christmas is "under attack" are the same ones who stomp their foot to keep "under G-d" in the pledge and the 10 commandments posted in schools with the argument that no-one should feel as though religion is encroaching on public institutions because the references are "really" secular, have no overtly religious meaning and that the "secularists" are reading way too much into them. These same people then respond to a question of "if these symbols are so devoid of meaning why can't we remove them from public institutions?" with the accusation we're trying to prevent them from expressing their faith! Do they even know what they want, let alone why they want it? People do a great disservice to themselves, the country and their religion when they focus on public displays and activities instead of their own personal observance and celebration.

If people are so concerned about expressing their faith and maintaining the integrity of their holy days, why don't they embrace and express their faith by going to church, participating in a Living Nativity at church/privately owned community center/home, adopting a local family in need, etc. instead of protesting others' use of the phrase Happy Holidays in lieu of Merry Christmas or complaining about the dearth of Nativity Scenes & Christmas Carols on government property and public schools?


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