Is it ok to say Merry Christmas?
Back in December of 2003, I wrote about how Christians ought to respond to the annual cleansing of the public square of Christian symbols. I suggested Christians set up religious Christmas displays on our own property. I had been inspired by The Bethlehem Experience, an annual re-creation of the sights and sounds of Bethlehem as it might have been at the birth of Christ.
I can report Bad News and Good News on the Christmas front of the Culture Wars. First, the bad news: this year, somebody got in trouble for a nativity scene in their own yard.
A family in Novi, Michigan, was threatened with fines by the management company of their subdivision unless they removed the nativity scene from their own front lawn. The Samona family has lived in the home for three years, and has displayed their creche each year. This year, the company informed them that they could be fined up to $100 per week until the display was removed.
But here is the good news: Christians are fighting back, and winning. In this particular instance, the Samona family contacted the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm located in Ann Arbor, MI. After receiving a letter from attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center, the management company quickly backed down. They even apologized for any distress they had caused, and offered to give the family a gift basket as a token of their remorse.
The Supreme Court has created a tremendous amount of confusion on the issue of public displays of Christianity through its complex and seemingly contradictory sets of rulings. That confusion can cause people to withdraw from the fray, simply out of fear of being sued or fined. But if you are unwilling to be intimidated, you may find that you are perfectly within your rights to do what you had planned.
For instance, the school district in Jackson County Georgia had prohibited a whole variety of religious expressions. The district had prohibited teachers from wearing pins, angels, crosses, or clothing that had religious connotations. The district had removed certain religious songs from a "Winter concert," and censored the word "God" from a song.
An attorney from the Alliance Defense Fund wrote a letter to the school district, on behalf of one of the teachers. According to ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman, many people are ignorant of the law. "Many school districts aren't trying to be difficult; they simply don't know the facts about the law. The fear, disinformation and intimidation that the ACLU and other groups like them have promoted over the years with regard to religious expression on public property at Christmastime have led to such misconceptions. ADF desires to educate schools, teachers and students on the truth about what the law really says."
Besides Christians standing up for themselves, non-Christians are standing up for Christmas. Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, was founded by Don Feder to combat the widespread prejudice against Christians by the cultural elites. As Feder noted in the organization's inaugural address:
"Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation was organized because we recognize that Christians are the last remaining obstacle to the moral deconstruction of America, ... But the morality of Christianity is also the morality of Judaism - hence the expression Judeo-Christian ethic. By maintaining their loyalty to the eternal values revealed at Sinai, Christians have become pariahs in the eyes of the establishment, but heroes in our eyes."
Not surprisingly, this organization has spoken out against purging Christmas from the public square. As Feder points out "According to a recent Newsweek survey, 85% of this nation is Christian. (On a percentage-of-population basis, America is more Christian than Israel is Jewish -- more Christian than India is Hindu.) A FOX News poll informs us that 96% of the American people celebrate Christmas - which means a lot of non-Christians are decking the halls too. So the above de-Santa-zation process is all for 4% of the population? Not even. Many who don't celebrate Christmas have no objection to Christmas trees, carols, mangers in parks, Santas in parades or the lady at the cash register saying "Merry Christmas." I should know; I'm one of them. When I was in grade school, back in the '50s, we sang Christmas carols an
d made Christmas ornaments. And, guess what - I wasn't emotionally scarred for life."
One thing is certain: the annual Christmas debate has gotten a lot more interesting.