The Christmas Wars / Christmas Dilemma
Events during 2008
As in past years, the conflict over Christmas in 2008 started to heat up well
in advance of the holiday. The fundamental question is whether stores, public schools,
municipal displays should:
||Recognize Christmas as the sole "reason for the season" -- the only
acknowledged festival in late December, or
||Recognize the many religious and secular observances at this time of
year of which Christmas is the most popular one.
That is, whether everyone should follow the traditional situation, or follow
reality; exclusivism or inclusivism.
Are the Christmas wars winding down?
On 2008-DEC-29, we performed a crude analysis of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) website by using
their internal search function to find locations in their website containing the
word "Christmas." 1 We then scanned the results,
counting only those whose theme involved Christmas. The number of results, sorted by year were:
||Number of hits
We still have a few days to go into the year 2008. We will check back early
in the new year to see if the ADF's references to Christmas conflicts did indeed peak in
2004 and decline ever since.
What are store employees really saying to customers?
According to a OneNewsNow.com poll, essentially all store employees are
saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." The former is the traditional
greeting that was almost universal in the past when the U.S. was considered a
Judeo-Christian country by the vast majority of Americans. The latter greeting
is sensitive to the fact that increasing numbers of Americans observe other
celebrations at this time of year: Yule, the Winter Solstice, Hannukhah,
Kwanzaa, Al-Hijra/Muharram, etc. [Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the
beginning of the first lunar month. Holy days in Islam are scheduled according
to a lunar calendar and thus differ from year to year.]
OneNewsNow.com conducted a poll among its web site's readers, which tend to
be fundamentalist and other evangelical Protestants. The question was: "What
greeting have you received most often from merchants during this Christmas
season?" Results were:
||Merry Christmas: 47.7%
||Happy Holidays: 44.7%
||Happy Kwanzaa: 0.12%
||Happy Hanukkah: 0.02%
None of the above: 7.5% 2
We hope that OneNewsNow will repeat the poll in future years with the
same question so that trends can be documented.
||2008-MAY-29: Court rules in 2007 case re schools in Wilson County, TN:
Anonymous parents of a child in a Wilson County school launched a lawsuit with
the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The defendents were
supported by the The goal was to eliminate religious content in the Lakeview
School in six areas:|
||Playing of a song with a religious reference in honor of a
three-year-old cancer victim.
||?See You at the Pole? student prayer event.
||National Day of Prayer observances.
Meetings on campus by the group Praying Parents.
||Thanksgiving observances with religious references.
Christmas observances with religious references. 3
The plaintiffs were not successful in eliminating these activities.
However, the decision by Judge Robert L. Echols of the United States District
Court for the Middle district of Tennessee, Nashville Division, was severely
restricted in the way in which they organized, allowed, and presented these
events, in accordance with previous court decisions in the U.S.
The court instructed the defendants, associated with the Lakeview School, to:
||Bring their religious activities and practices into conformance with the
policies specified by the Wilson County Board of Education.
The outside, non student group, Praying Parents are to be given
precisely the same permissions and restrictions that other outside groups
are given: no more and no less.
Teaching in Kindergarten of the religious aspects of the origins of
Thanksgiving and of the Pilgrim culture may continue, and include a generic
prayer that is similar to that given by the Pilgrims. But the prayer is to
be presented "...in an unbiased and objective manner without sectarian
indoctrination." Parents are to be informed in advance and allowed to
have their children excused from participating in the prayer blessing.
||"Lakeview School kindergarten teachers may include a nativity scene,
accompanied by the singing of religious carols, in the annual Christmas
program so long as the nativity scene is displayed as an example of the
cultural and religious heritage of the holiday, the display is temporary
in nature, the display is presented in an unbiased and objective manner
without sectarian indoctrination, the parents of kindergarten students are
given express, advance notice of the inclusion of the nativity scene and the
singing of religious carols in the annual Christmas program, and
parents of kindergarten students are given the opportunity to request in
advance that a student be excused from participating in the nativity scene
and the singing of religious carols."
School employees are prohibited from organizing, promoting or attending
a See You At The Pole? event or the National Day of Prayer event,
with the exception of supervising students or property. "Flyers, signs,
posters, notices or announcements ... must include a disclaimer that the
Wilson County School System and the administration of the Lakeview School do
not endorse or sponsor the events." The student sponsors must pay rent for
any school equipment used. The "I Prayed" stickers are not to be worn by
school employees during instructional time. 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
The ADF website is at:
OneNewsNow.com Poll, 2008, at:
"ACLU fails to silence religious expression in Wilson County schools
Religious expression can and will continue despite ACLU efforts in lawsuit
decided Thursday," ADF, 2008-MAY-30, at:
The text of the court's decision is at:
http://www.telladf.org/ This is a PDF file.
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2008-DEC-29
Latest update: 2008-DEC-30
Author: B.A. Robinson