The First Amendment to the Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” While Congress may not be actively extirpating religious freedom from the public square, small, vocal, and pertinacious groups and individuals are succeeding through social and media pressure to do what congress is forbidden to do, aided and abetted by a sympathetic administration and a collaborative mainstream media. We must ask ourselves why we’re allowing them to do to our American culture what is proscribed for Congress to do. This clearly constitutes an aggressive war on not just any religion, but specifically, a war on Christianity.
This observation may be subjective, but it’s supported by objective, quantitative data. In their September 2012 update on the “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” Pew Research revealed, “The United States was among the 16 countries whose scores on both the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index increased by one point or more in the year ending in mid-2010. This was the first time scores for the U.S. increased on both indexes during the four-year period covered in this study.”
Pew revealed, that the “U.S. score on the Government Restrictions Index rose from 1.6 in the year ending in mid-2009 to 2.7 [a 57% increase] in the year ending in mid-2010, moving the U.S. from the low category of restrictions to the moderate category for the first time in the four years studied.”
The quantitative spike on social restrictions was even more significant. According to Pew’s study, “The U.S. score on the Social Hostilities Index also rose, from 2.0 as of mid-2009 to 3.4 as of mid-2010, moving the U.S. from the lower end of the moderate range of hostilities to the upper end of the moderate range. (Social Hostilities Index scores 3.6 or higher are categorized as high by this study.)”
While some governmental and social restrictions on freedom of religious expression are recorded against other religious groups, by far the most highly targeted are those of Christian faith.
For example, just last week the Navy removed nativity scenes from the dining hall at the Guantanamo Bay naval base because of a complaint. Earlier this month Pentagon lawyers forced the removal of a nativity scene at Shaw Air Force Base. A Texas school district made rules for a school “winter party” that proscribed any reference to Christmas, and forbade not only the use of a Christmas tree, but the use of the colors red and green.
The ESPN sports network would not air an advertisement for the Catholic Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation because of reference to “God’s healing presence this Christmas,” and “celebrate the birth of Jesus and the season of giving.” And to add insult to injury, the yearly NORAD “tracker” which tells kids where Santa is on Christmas Eve is also under attack.
Let’s put this war on Christianity into an empirically numerical perspective. In America apparently 92% of us celebrate Christmas, while only 6% claim they do not. And only 25% of those, according to the same Rasmussen survey, indicate that they celebrate a holiday other than Christmas at this time of year. When you do the math, that’s 92% that celebrate Christmas, 1.5% who celebrate a different holiday, 4.5% who don’t acknowledge any holiday this time of year, and 2% that don’t seem to know what they’re doing.
Yet in spite of the overwhelming celebration and support of Christmas, there seems to be no shortage of “Grinches” intent on dampening the spirit of the season, a very small sampling of which has just been listed.
Supreme Court case law is overwhelmingly supportive of overt Christmas celebrations, nativity scenes, Christmas programs in public schools, and even singing Christmas Carols, like “Silent Night” and “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” in public schools. Supreme Court decisions from Wisconsin v. Yoder and Widmar v. Vincent, to Florey v. Sioux Falls School District and Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District have denounced efforts to force religion out of the public square. And there are literally dozens of cases proscribing such efforts.
The efforts to purge the country of Nativity scenes and Christmas symbolism and celebrations, whether on public property or not, is clearly illegal, based on the predominant interpretation of the “free exercise clause” by the Supreme Court. Such efforts, perpetrated by thin-skinned, bigoted, and selfish people and groups, are also as illogical and misguided as would be the forced removal of Pilgrims from all Thanksgiving festivities, or Old Glory from 4th of July celebrations would be. The icons and symbolism of holidays are fundamental to holiday observance, and are a part of Americana, or our cultural heritage.
To rational people, recognizing a national holiday that happens to have “Christ” in the name, no more constitutes an “establishment of religion” than a public prayer does. Yet efforts to thwart those outward expressions are clearly a violation of the free exercise clause, perhaps not by congress, but by intolerant and misguided malcontents exercising the tyranny of the minority.
As long as the official federal calendar says “Christmas Day,” then Christmas programs, Christmas trees, expressions of Merry Christmas, and the symbolism of the holiday are themselves politically correct, appropriate, and legal.
We can all play a part in preserving our free exercise of religion by resisting the efforts of the intolerant forces in our society and community through information, education, and assertion of our Constitutional rights.
And with that, I defy the tyranny of the vocal minority and anti-Christian crowd, and declare to one and all, Merry Christmas, and “God bless us everyone.”
Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].