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FIRST-PERSON: Merry Christmas — it’s okay to say it

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (BP)–It’s that joyous season once again. And nothing so warms a wintry heart like singing “O Mid-Year Break Tree,” “We Wish You a Merry Solstice,” or that more recent favorite, “A Whiskered White Male Is Coming to Town.”

Never heard of these carols? Well, despite the American Civil Liberties Union and its allies’ claims to the contrary, that is how the event formerly called Christmas will be celebrated if they have their way. You better watch out, you better not say the wrong words or display a nativity scene; otherwise, you may hear “Hark! The Herald Lawyers Sing” at your doorstep next December.

The ACLU actually claims to defend religious liberty, but it’s their special sanitized version. Time and time again they’ve done everything in their power to replace Christmas with a vague, secularized holiday. Now, countless public officials are so rattled by the potential of a lawsuit — after years of ACLU campaigns of fear, intimidation and disinformation — that they preemptively restrict freedom of speech and freedom of religion at Christmastime without even a “demand letter” to prompt them.

This year, school officials in Jackson County, Ga., attempted to censor staff and teachers from wearing any pins, angels, crosses or clothing that might evoke religious expression at Christmas. Teachers were even asked not to wish anyone a “Merry Christmas.” However, one teacher decided to stand up to Scrooge by contacting the Alliance Defense Fund. An ADF attorney let the district know that this overreaction was completely unconstitutional.

“Frankly, it’s ridiculous that we’re even debating whether it’s OK to say ‘Merry Christmas,’” ADF’s David Cortman said. “I’m sure just about everyone would rather have a Merry Christmas than a meaningless winter holiday.”

Of course, he’s right. According to several polls, an overwhelming majority of Americans think we should publicly celebrate Christmas. A 2005 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll confirmed that 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. According to other polls, 90 percent of Americans recognize Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ (Gallup, 2000), and 87 percent believe that nativity scenes should be allowed on public property (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics, 2003).

These overwhelming numbers prove that Christmas is a non-partisan issue. And it’s OK for all Americans to say “Merry Christmas” whenever or wherever they want — even on property the public paid for with their hard-earned tax dollars.

But in the ACLU’s version of America, it’s always winter and never Christmas. The group filed a suit against a Louisiana elementary school for displaying a nativity scene, even though it was unquestionably lawful and surrounded by numerous displays of other holiday and faith traditions. Last Christmas, the ACLU sued to shut down “equal access” for different holiday traditions — including a nativity scene — on behalf of a woman who was “offended” by such displays on a Rhode Island city lawn. Thankfully, the holiday displays were ultimately protected in both cases.

Despite some persistent misconceptions, even our current judicial system does not endorse the radical anti-history, anti-heritage, and anti-religious agenda of the ACLU. The Supreme Court has never said that saying “Merry Christmas” or having a merry Christmas is illegal. It is completely lawful to sing Christmas carols and pass out candy canes in public schools. It’s also fine to display Christian symbols like nativity scenes on public property. Yes, court rulings give guidelines, but they are not nearly so oppressive as imagined — even if a few Grinches don’t like it.

Christmas is a time for goodness, giving and hope — not fear, intimidation and disinformation. No one is advocating that anyone be forced to celebrate Christmas. No one is suggesting that the celebration of other faith traditions should be mocked or banned. The Constitution protects the rights of Americans to celebrate any number of holidays at this time of year or to celebrate no holiday at all. But some far-left radical groups, like the ACLU, would prefer to single out Christmas to be left in the cold — banishing it from our heritage or making it part of an unrecognizable “seasonal potpourri” — instead of supporting those who wish to rejoice in its unique observation.

So what can Americans do to promote the reason for the season? It is vital that all of us exercise our First Amendment rights and not be intimidated by those who would take them away.

So display your Christmas tree decked with any decoration you like. Fear not to display your nativity scene. Unabashedly sing “Away in a Manger,” “O, Come All Ye Faithful,” or any of your other favorite carols. Wear a cross, an angel pin or any other Christmas attire whether you are at work, school or officiating at a city council meeting. And strongly encourage your community and your public officials to allow Christmas symbols to return prominently to the public square and its name to reappear on the community and school calendars.

But most of all, just offer a hearty and heartfelt “Merry Christmas” to anyone who needs a little cheer. Especially those glum lawyers at the ACLU.
Sears now is the president and CEO of the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance defending religious liberty through strategy, training, funding and litigation, online at www.telladf.org. He is co-author with Craig Osten of “The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values” (Broadman & Holman, 2005, www.acluvsamerica.com). It can be purchased online at www.LifeWayStores.com. To learn more about ADF’s Christmas Project, visit www.saychristmas.org.

    About the Author

  • Alan Sears