The Christmas trees are back up at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle after they were taken down in response to a threatened lawsuit. But that doesn't mean the bah-humbug season is over yet.
Every Christmas, the politically correct and anti-religion crowd gets into Scrooge mode, trying to deprive the great majority of Americans from celebrating Christmas in traditional fashion. The ACLU files lawsuits demanding crches be removed from public property. School districts change Christmas vacations into winter breaks and ban carols from holiday assemblies. Even some retailers have gotten cold feet about mentioning the holiday, with Wal-Mart instructing its employees that "Merry Christmas" should be replaced with "Happy Holidays." It would be laughable if it weren't so offensive.
This year's "war on Christmas" story had an unlikely genesis. A Seattle rabbi simply asked Sea-Tac Airport to display a Menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, which begins at sundown this Friday. But the Port Authority, which runs the facility, got nervous, worrying that displaying the symbol that celebrates the Jewish victory over the Seleucid king of Syria in 200 B.C. would somehow be a government endorsement of religion.
Nonsense. The story of the Maccabees' revolt against Antiochus IV -- who persecuted the Jews and looted the Temple -- is a cultural and historical celebration as well as a religious one. The airport could easily have accommodated the rabbi's request, but chose instead to panic and remove the Christmas trees, which are certainly a secular, not religious, symbol. And the rabbi didn't exactly help the matter by threatening to sue the airport if it didn't display the 8-foot lighted candelabra.
Many of us grew up in a different time, when civic centers and public buildings routinely featured not just trees, snowmen and Santa Claus, but Nativity scenes that depicted Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men. No one was being asked to subscribe to belief in the divinity of Christ because of these displays, but it was an acknowledgement that the overwhelming majority of Americans celebrated the birth of this man.
Should non-Buddhists be offended when cities build pagoda structures with public money, since these buildings are simply replicas of shrines to honor Buddha? Should Christians, Jews and Moslems take offense when Chinese restaurants feature statues of Buddha at their entryways? Should public buildings be forced to remove any Persian rugs that feature the prayer rug design, in fear that not doing so is somehow an endorsement of Islam?
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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