Linda Chavez

Should public museums remove any paintings that depict religious figures or themes? Should public orchestras and choruses be forbidden from playing The Messiah this year? Should corporations similarly worry that they shouldn't be making donations that would be used to promote cultural celebrations of religious themes, in fear that they will antagonize non-believers or those of different religious faiths?

Some people, no doubt, would answer yes to all these questions. But imagine life in such a society. Instead of a nation that celebrates religious freedom, we would become Taliban-like, banning all expressions of religion in the public square.

Surely common sense should prevail here. The First Amendment, of course, guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. The Supreme Court bears much of the fault for taking us down this path over the last several decades. We have become such a litigious society that anyone who feels slighted in any way rushes to court to settle his grievances.

Thankfully, the Sea-Tac came to its senses and put back the 14 trees it unwisely took down. And Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky withdrew his threat to sue, opting, wisely, to work with the airport to get the Menorah put up for next year's Hanukkah celebration. Wal-Mart still encourages its employees to wish everyone a Happy Holidays, but it fired a customer service representative who sent e-mails telling those who complained that Christmas has its roots in "Siberian shamanism."

The United States may be increasingly religiously diverse, and we should be respectful of minority religions and of those who have no religious affiliations or beliefs. But those who do not share the religious views of the majority are not entitled to ban Christianity from the public square.

If they succeed, what will happen next? Remember the Taliban blowing up the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan? Will we see the anti-religion police roaming our museums and concert halls on some future crusade? This, not a few Christmas trees or even crches on public property, could become the true threat to the First Amendment.

Linda Chavez

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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