Unless you are just back from some other planet, you will have noticed that there is much more commotion this year than in previous years over public observations of Christmas.
The expenditure of public money on such explicitly Christian phenomena as creches in public parks, or even crosses on public hilltops, had already been pretty well wiped out in previously, owing to the Supreme Court's absurd decision that these amounted to an "establishment of religion" and were therefore barred by the First Amendment. But 2005 is the first year in which Christians have taken much notice of the degree to which Christian terminology -- terms like "Merry Christmas," "Christmas tree," etc. -- have been quietly retired by such non-governmental entities as certain department stores, and replaced by such neutral terms as "Happy Holidays," "holiday tree," and the like.
The theory that supports these changes is that using expressly Christian terms offends non-Christians, or at least make them feel excluded or unwelcome. And since commercial enterprises like department stores aspire to serve not only Christians, but Jews, Muslims and atheists, Christian references must be excluded in their communications with prospective customers.
Personally, I think that theory is nonsense. In my own experience, the great majority of the Jews I know (I know very few Muslims) are thoroughly used to the appearance of Christian expressions in all sorts of oral and written communications, and take no serious offense at them. This is, after all, an overwhelmingly Christian country, with believers ranging somewhere above 85 percent of the population, and references to Christian beliefs and practices are inevitably almost as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. To exclude them, and replace them with awkward constructions like "holiday tree," causes far more interreligious ill feeling than it eliminates.
But that is where we are being led by the Supreme Court's preposterous notion that governmental recognition of such simple truths would constitute an "establishment of religion." That ruling is now the settled Law of the Land, and the only reason we still have "In God we trust" on our coins and "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is that the Court is simply too scared of the public reaction to knock them out.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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