John Leo

The word "inclusion" comes up all the time as a term used by those who wish to obliterate rather than include. This is certainly so in Plainfield, Ill., where elementary school principal Sandy Niemiera made a startling announcement: Because of diversity concerns, students will no longer be allowed to celebrate any holidays at all. So goodbye to Valentine's Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving as well as Christmas and Hanukkah because the school needs to "respect each individual's uniqueness but also to help us look for and celebrate those things that we have in common." What the students will have in common, of course, is a sterile, tradition-free public environment. And the school-induced sense that religion and ritual are inherently dangerous.

In plain English, the term "inclusion" has come to mean "exclusion." In New York's Central Park, we have a Christian nativity scene, a Jewish menorah and a Muslim star and crescent, all privately paid for and displayed on public property. That's inclusion. Banning all signs of religion from schools and public property (neither of which is called for by the Constitution or the Supreme Court) is exclusion posturing as inclusiveness.

There's another new wrinkle in inclusiveness ideology. Call it the sensitive person's veto. Last year, the city of Eugene, Ore., barred Christmas trees from public property, then backed down a bit and allowed firefighters to put up a tree on Christmas Eve and Christmas. But the city manager said that if one person objects, the tree must come down. This allows the most sensitive person in town to set policy. Kensington, Md., banned Santa Claus from this year's tree-lighting ceremony because of two complaints.

The sensitive person's veto was born in the anti-smoking campaign and has spread to other fields. Now it's showing up in the wars over Christmas and Hanukkah. Those who want to keep those traditions alive in the public square had better push back. The sensitive person's veto requires only one vote to topple any norm. And that vote will always be easy to find.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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