Maggie Gallagher

About a year ago, according to the Washington Times, a local resident asked that a menorah be included with the Christmas tree. For some reason, instead of merely acceding to this perfectly reasonable request to have the town recognize a Jewish holy day too, the council voted to secularize its public celebration on the grounds that some of its residents find Christmas offensive. And they made the big mistake of trying to use Sept. 11 as the cover story, lighting the tree in honor of police, firefighters and rescue workers. Last week the town council issued a statement, sniffing: "All the attention is missing a key point: This year is different from most years. The events of Sept. 11 require a different kind of ceremony."

Oh, yeah? Ken Forte, a Kensington volunteer fireman, showed up along with hundreds of others in a red Santa suit. Another Santa, Don Wade of Montgomery County, said there "is a need to show tolerance for the thousand families" who want Santa. And Christmas too, I might add.

We could use a little more such common sense in thousands of other American communities where officials mistakenly believe either the Constitution or civility requires the public censoring of religion. "Put up a menorah. Celebrate Ramadan. Let everybody have their holidays. Just don't take away our Christmas tree," one local business owner rather plaintively but brilliantly put it to me.

Exactly. Merry Whatever. And a happy new year to you, too.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.