Jonah Goldberg

In 1984, the Supreme Court launched one of America's worst traditions: Christmas Agonistes. This is the ritual where everyone goes batty about what to "do" about Christmas. The court invented it in a decision called Lynch vs. Donnelly, the upshot of which was that if someone is offended at a creche or Christmas tree at City Hall, they can go whining to a judge about it.

Just this week, the Capitol performed its own minor Christmas miracle of transubstantiation. At the beginning of the week, House Speaker Denny Hastert unveiled a "Holiday Tree." But a few days later, after some entirely predictable bah humbugs, he re-christened it a Christmas tree. (Similarly, when the city of Boston tried to unveil its official "Holiday Tree," the premier of Nova Scotia, which had provided it as a gift, called it a nifty trick since, "when it left Nova Scotia, it was a Christmas tree.")

These miracles aren't exactly up there with keeping lamp oil burning for eight days, never mind rising from the dead, but they're pretty good for government work.

Personally, I take no offense at the government unveiling a Christmas tree on the grounds of the "People's House." Besides, a place that in love with pork is hardly kosher to begin with.

Lamenting the war on Christmas has become something of a cottage industry for conservatives, just as lamenting the perfidious intrusion of Christianity on the public square is a grand source of fundraising and TV time for segments of the left. Fox News' John Gibson has even come out with a definitive brief on the war on Christmas aptly titled "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought."

And for some it does seem like Christmas is under siege. Not just Christmas, of course, but religious expression generally.

Traditionalists of a certain bent are at a particular disadvantage because they have a handy label to define their morality: religion. And religion has a special status in our society.

Secularists, misreading history, claim that the Constitution requires that wherever government and religion intersect, religion must vanish. This is terribly wrongheaded in my opinion, but we've all heard those arguments before.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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