Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! Go ahead and call the politically correct police, I do not care. As a lifelong Christian with many Jewish friends, I do care about religious faith and traditions. The faith and traditions practiced each December in the name of the Judeo-Christian God do not need to hide behind secularism and the threat of lawsuits.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees freedom to exercise religion, the freedom of speech and the freedom to peaceably assemble. The First Amendment does not protect anyone’s self-constructed right to not be offended by the prayers, religious symbols and well wishes we have expressed during the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons since the founding of this country.
I am offended if you are offended by public expressions of faith and celebration of God’s gift to the world. According to a 2006 Baylor University survey, 82 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian and 2.5 percent as Jewish. Moreover, 63 percent of Americans who claim no affiliation with a religious tradition still believe in God or some higher power. If you do not believe in God or celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, that is fine with me. The First Amendment allows you to practice whatever religious beliefs and traditions you choose, if any. That does not offend me. Just stay out of our way.
The display of a nativity scene, a menorah, a Christmas tree, Santa Claus or lights does not impose a religious belief on anyone. If you interpret the display of symbols, the singing of a carol or the lighting of a candle as an imposition of religion, then you have a very weak belief system. Religion is not about symbols. Religion is about faith. Symbols are just expressions of that faith.
Too many Americans are guided and implicitly threatened by the misinterpretations of the Constitution’s establishment clause that found a non-existent “separation of church and state.” Correctly read, the First Amendment does not prohibit the public exercise of faith. Nor does the First Amendment protect an individual who feels offended by witnessing religious symbols or people in prayer. Religious exercise in the public square is a cornerstone of our national heritage
Each year a handful of businesses and organizations cave in to threats of lawsuits and controversy concerning the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas” or the display of religious or even secular symbols such as trees or Santa Claus. They should not fear the vocal minority of Americans who, like the Soviet leaders during the Cold War, view religious belief and exercise as a threat to the power of the state. Businesses and organizations have a First Amendment-protected right to express their beliefs and the beliefs of the customers they serve.
If you want to be offended by something, let’s be offended together by a so-called religious sect, Islamic fascism, which seeks to kill all of us. More importantly, let’s fight and defeat Islamic fascism together. Stop wasting precious time and resources on the imagined threat of religious symbols in the United States, when a real threat looms to our national security and our very existence.
Symbols of the season help us display our faith, but also brighten the hearts and imaginations of children. “Here comes Santa Claus” still works for a lot of us. Even I as an adult can’t get excited about “Here comes Holiday Guy.”
Religion and faith give us a lens to view America’s role in the world and the individual contributions we can make to secure our nation’s status as the shining city of hope. Christmas is the time to celebrate the God of the Christian and Jewish faiths who guided our Founding Fathers in spirit, words and battle, who brought Lincoln to his knees in prayer, who inspired King’s dream, and who lights a path for the rest of us Americans blessed to call this great country home.
May your days be merry and bright.