Each year, misguided government officials and fearful corporate executives try to censor expressions of Christmas, and, each year, after people object, others deny such censorship exists. But it does.
This year’s examples include:
1. The Governor of Rhode Island renaming the Christmas tree erected in the State Capitol as a “holiday tree.”
2. The City of Santa Monica, California stopping a six decade tradition of allowing private citizens to erect Nativity scenes in a local park after atheists complained and worked to erect their anti-Christmas displays.
3. And officials at a community college in western North Carolina rewriting an advertisement, so that a student group was selling “holiday trees,” not Christmas trees, as a fundraiser.
I have personally been involved in situations in which public school officials changed the lyrics of Christmas carols or forbade students from displaying art they had made in class depicting the manger scene. So when I hear someone deny that Christmas censorship exists, I feel like the late Neil Armstrong reading claims that the moon landing was faked.
Why do these “Holly Claus” deniers persist in claiming that nothing like a “war on Christmas” exists?
Maybe they are misled by the vast array of Christmas decorations and music surrounding us this time of year. But pointing to a store festooned in red ribbons and colored lights with “Frosty the Snowman” playing misses the point. The censorship removes the religious aspects of Christmas, while leaving the holiday’s less offensive secular aspects. In the myriad store decorations it is difficult to find any celebration of Jesus Christ coming to earth to die for the sins of His people (Matt. 1:21). That is the message being suppressed.
When a private business instructs its employees to say “Happy Holidays” and never “Merry Christmas,” it is succumbing to an unseen pressure to eliminate the “objectionable” religious aspects of Christmas.
But the Constitution does not guarantee everyone the right to a cleansed corridor, with everything they find “offensive” removed from their path. Even if such a constitutional requirement existed, it would apply only to the government, not to private businesses and individuals. A store clerk or a public school student saying “Merry Christmas” cannot violate the Constitution.
The Constitution requires the government to accommodate private religious expression, not obliterate it. The Establishment Clause does not require public schools to stop students from making art that depicts Mary and Joseph.
Also, it does not require school officials to change the words of Christmas carols sung at the school’s Christmas, er, Winter Concert. School officials can constitutionally use religious songs for educational purposes, like, to teach history (black gospel spirituals) or to challenge the students’ skills (like Handel’s Messiah) or even because the songs are relevant to the community or time of year. Imagine how students would suffer from a deficient public school education plucked bare off anything referencing religion. No Shakespeare? No Renaissance art?
Yes, Virginia, there is Christmas censorship, but the Constitution does not require it. And frankly, those demanding it should find more important things to do.