Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

White House holidays, take 2

As I predicted, Get Religion would provide more interesting material. This time, Terry Mattingly notes that the Cooperman story may owe something to an Americans United press release. (What gives? They have a copy of the card, but I don’t! As my son once said, "What am I, chopped lumber?")

I also note that the Bushes celebrated Hannukah, which Presidents have done with some regularity since the Carter Administration.

He is president of all the people and can join in--and thereby "endorse"--the celebration of any holiday Americans celebrate. His act is an act of respect and inclusion, not an establishment of religion. The sooner we think of holiday greetings as respectful and inclusive, rather than oppressive, the sooner we can leave behind the baggage with which innocent greetings and celebrations have been weighed down.

Let’s call a Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa truce: no litigation or threat of litigation by anyone. Let people celebrate and greet one another without having to think too hard about what to say. In the unlikely event that there’s conflict, we can work it out, person to person.

Discussions - 8 Comments

I’m with you, Joe. Also, I was beginning to think that the war against Christmas could never be won.

In that spirit, and inspired by your son’s query, as MY son used to say: "Holy McEnroe!"

In my experience, none of my religious neighbors (several Jewish couples, one muslim, one Hindi has ever been offended by verbal Christmas greetings or cards. Only the secular ones. Makes you wonder what the most intolerant belief system is?

When I lived in Houstons several families would get todether for dinner, about once a month. The hosting couple had prayer rights to speak from their faith. Led to many interesting discussions. I especially liked dinner at the Jewish house hold because of their pre-dinner blessing and post-dinner prayer of thanskgiving.

So I ask, if religious people can tolerate each other, why noteveryone?

It feels a bit ridiculous to agree to a truce when I never felt that I was engaged in a battle in the first place but, sure, it’s a deal. I’m afraid that more than a few elements on the Right (Falwell and company) will continue on with this "war" nonetheless.


There are, unfortunately, lots of court cases where plaintiffs, often represented by the ACLU, challenged a holiday celebration. The result is a kind of hypersensitivity about religion in the public square, as in this case, where a child’s religious art (in response to an assignment) was initially removed from the walls of a public school. I don’t think we can infer that the school officials who did this were personally hostile to religion (just as I don’t think the teacher who tried to discourage my son from being thankful for his church when he was in first grade is personally hostile to religion), only that they have a mistaken impression about what the First Amendment permits, an impression fostered by sweeping court pronouncements and an active campaign of litigation, such as that described in this book. The legal battles have subtly changed the culture. It may seem petty to respond, and I wish a response were unnecessary. I wish we could be tolerant and accommodating, rather than assuming that toleration required "official" and "public" secularism.

who like to joke about being "offended" by hearing "Merry Christmas." In seriousness, they love to extend Christmas best wishes to me and others around the office. And I make a custom of wishing them "Ramadan mubarak" or "Eid mubarak" without hesitation. I’m just glad we don’t have any ACLU-watchdog types around to accuse us of trying to overturn the First Amendment or whatever it is the ACLU in its feverish state of delusion thinks religious people are always plotting to do.

The flip side to the President’s inclusion of Hanukkah and (perhaps) Kwanzaa (by participation or reference to) would be the implicit EXclusion of other religions, would it not? And why is the fact that Christmas is the only religious holiday that is also recognized as a federal holiday not considered to be an establishment of religion or, at the very least, an exclusive endorsement of Christmas?

Mr. Osterberg,

Establishment historically meant persecution. Acknowledging a widely-celebrated holiday is accommodation, not establishment.

But can you get the capitalists to agree to this truce? You gotta love this bold idea!

"Summary: It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration."

There are a few fun tidbits in there though, as he describes, perhaps too briefly, how "Christians stole Christmas." Uh-oh!!!!!

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