by Jesse Galef -
A bill sponsored by 19 House Republicans (including six from South Carolina, never a good sign,) wants to reaffirm that people can celebrate Christmas and mention God. I’m guessing this is in response to a gross misunderstanding of current legal concerns over displays that are government-sponsored or on government property. Via one of my longtime favorite bloggers, Steve Benen at WashingtonMonthly, I apologize in advance for the text of H. RES. 951:
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.
Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and
Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.
I’m momentarily stunned – so many points to address I don’t even know where to begin.
This is why it’s troublesome for a secular and religious concept to have the same name. When government talks about “marriage” – the legal, civil status it has authority to grant – many hear “marriage” – the religious union they believe receives the blessing of God.
I never know whether people are talking about “Christmas” – the secular celebration of the spirit of giving (and commercialism) in which people display evergreen trees, pretty lights, and do the whole Presents/Santa thing – and “Christmas” – the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in which people put up nativity scenes and go to church.
Government can support the former but not the latter, and this bill seems to be conflating the two. By explicitly mentioning the use of “God,” the congressmen make it clear that when they say “symbols and traditions” they refer to religious symbols and traditions. Our secular government simply does not have the authority to promote the use of religious symbols and traditions.
They’re pulling a fast one – they’re attacking non-existent strawmen, but using it to promote their religion. There has been recent uproar over cities refusing to support overtly religious governmental displays. These 19 congressmen pretend they’re addressing these controversies – but they’re not. The issue in question has never been “references to Christmas” or the right of individuals to use any symbol and tradition they want. It has always been a question of inappropriate, unconstitutional governmental support for religion.
I don’t know whether this bill will make it out of committee – most bills don’t – but if it goes up for a vote, I have a hard time seeing it fail. No congressman wants to go on record against Christmas.