Conflicts at Christmas time / Religious cooperation:
House resolution giving Christmas a special
status to the
exclusion of other holy days
During 2005, Representative Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), supported by twenty-five Republican representatives, no Democrat and no Independent representatives, submitted
House Resolution H. Res. 579 for debate and a vote. It is titled:"Expressing the sense of the House of
Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected."
During the debate, one Democratic member asked the Davis to amend the
resolution to include the symbols of Chanukah and those of other religious and
secular holidays celebrated at this time of year. She refused. Only Christianity
and its symbols are to be protected. No similar protections or recognition are to be provided
for Chanukah (Jews), Id al-Adha (Muslims between 2006 and 2008),
Yule (Wiccans and other Neopagans), the
Winter Solstice (Atheists and followers of many Aboriginal religions), Bodhi Day (Buddhists),
etc. By passing this resolution, Christianity is elevated to preferred status
and that all other religions, and secularism, is relegated to secondary status.
The principle being promoted by this resolution is that America was founded
by Christians, that Christianity is the unofficial state religion, and that
Christians are to be given special protections. This conflicts with the fact on
the ground that the U.S. is the most religiously diverse nation on Earth. One
cannot grant one religion special protections and privileges without adversely
affecting the status, protections, and privileges of non-Christian religions.
The bill was passed on DEC-15 with an overwhelming vote: 401 in favor; 22 opposed; 5 "present."
In passing this resolution, the members of the House who voted for it appear to have violated the
essence of the
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." They also
appear to have violated their oath of office which includes a promise to uphold
the Constitution. Of course, this is a resolution of the House, and not an
actual law, so the violation of the Constitution and oath of office may only be
in spirit if not also in fact.
Text of the Resolution:
"Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and
traditions of Christmas should be protected.
Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and
Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States would prohibit the establishment of
religion, 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 ;
(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions, for
those who celebrate Christmas."
The final five words "for those who celebrate Christmas" were not in the
original resolution. They appear in the final version. 1
Suggested amendment to the resolution:
During the debate in the House, Representative Israel (D-NY) suggested an
amendment to include protection for the full range of religious and secular
celebrations and observances at this time of year. He said:
"....I want to thank the gentlewoman for introducing this
resolution. I actually share her view and understand her frustration when
any government attempts to ban secular symbols like Santa Claus or Rudolph
the Red Nose Reindeer or Christmas lights. I do not believe that any
community should ban those secular symbols as long as they do not choose one
set of symbols over the other; as long as they are inclusive of all
"My difficulty with this resolution is that it excludes some symbols and
includes only certain symbols. So I would ask the gentlewoman, in the spirit
of diversity, and of the many faiths that we celebrate in this body and
throughout America, I would ask her not to withdraw the resolution, but
allow this resolution to attract a very significant number of votes, maybe a
unanimous vote, simply by adding the words 'Kwanzaa,' 'Ramadan,' and
'Chanukah' to her resolution. Do not exclude certain symbols. Be inclusive
"So, Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman and ask her if she would
change this resolution, change this language, include Chanukah, include
Kwanzaa, include Ramadan, include holidays of all faiths so that this
resolution can reflect the best of America, which is a place of justice for
The sponsor of the resolution, Jo Ann Davis (VA-R), rejected the suggestion,
"I would say that the reason for this resolution is that the attack has
not been on the menorah or any of the other symbols of the other religions.
But the attack has been and is being made on red and green colors, on candy
canes, on Santa Claus, which are not even religious symbols. That is the
point of the resolution. And with that I will leave it the way the
Statements made in the House:
Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV): "I rise today in support of H.R. 579, which would
express the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and
traditions of Christmas should be protected. Each year during the month of
December, thousands of homes across America are decorated with Christmas
trees, lights and festive wreaths. Christmas is the most widely celebrated
festival in the world, with traditions and customs that originated long ago
and still are very much alive today. Christmas has long been for giving and
sharing and for coming together with family and friends. The tradition is a
celebration of the spirit of love which is what makes this holiday so
popular throughout the world. I urge all Members to come together to support
and protect the pastime and traditions of a holiday that many of us hold
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL): "Though we have modern-day symbols of Christmas,
Christmas is not only about beautifully decorated pine trees and gift-wrapped
boxes that lie beneath them. Christmas is about goodwill and peace on Earth. It
is about tolerance; it is about providing for the less fortunate among us. We
cannot debate H. Res. 579 without considering how our policies address
homelessness, the uninsured, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. Yes, we have
Christmas symbols and traditions, but what do they really represent if we do not
first embrace the spirit and true meaning of Christmas: love, peace, tolerance,
compassion, goodwill, and hope for the future. Those are the true expressions of
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY): "There are people around who need an enemy at
all times to try to separate us one from the other as Americans in order to
advance their own agenda. I do not think we should be playing into their
hands. Nobody is attacking Christmas or its symbols.... I am really very
saddened by the fact that when given the opportunity to expand this
resolution that the sponsor demurred. I am not sure why. If you do not know
and you are saying that you want this to be what this is because yours is
the religion that has its symbols under attack, when was the last time you
walked into Wal-Mart and saw it saying 'Happy Chanukah?' When did you walk
into Toys 'R Us and see it saying 'Happy Kwanzaa?' Does that give me the
right to say that my religion is under attack, the symbols of my faith or
the holiday I wish to celebrate are under attack? It is not, and I am not
going to be a crybaby and say that it is. To tell the truth, it is slightly
offensive to see people trying to create a war and claiming they are
attacked just so that they go on the offense instead of the defense. This is
a prefabricated issue that has no merit. Nobody is attacking the symbols of
Christmas. Are you objecting to our wanting to be included because the
symbols of your religion are more important than the symbols of anybody
else's religion in America? Or is it because you think that the symbols of
your religion are more official? That is the danger in what we are doing."
Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) -- sponsor: "...some may question the importance
of this resolution in light of other national priorities that we are addressing
this week, but this resolution is important because it defends the traditions of
Christmas for those who celebrate Christmas. It is unfortunate that a
congressional resolution is even needed to do this. It is unfortunate that we
have had to come to this point. Christmas has been declared politically
incorrect. Any sign or even mention of Christmas in public can lead to
complaints, litigation, protest, and threats. America's favorite holiday is
being twisted beyond recognition. The push towards a neutered 'holiday' season
is stronger than ever so that no one can be even the slightest bit offended.
Madam Speaker, overzealous civil liberties lawyers are making their list and
checking it twice. Change the Christmas tree to a Friendship tree, check. Change
'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' to 'We Wish You a Happy Holiday,' check. Remove
the colors green and red, check. Get rid of Christmas music, even instrumental,
check. When did wishing someone a Merry Christmas show insensitivity? According
to a recent poll, 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. In an effort to
create a generic holiday starting at Thanksgiving and ending at New Year's, what
are we exactly celebrating? The purpose of celebrating the Fourth of July is to
celebrate our Nation's independence. Why is it not reasonable to say that
celebrating Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth? This is a selective
assault on religious free speech which is a fundamental right. The Founders did
not view celebrating Christmas as an issue of church versus State. It is
celebrating a holiday that has for thousands of years been celebrated. The
framers intended that the first amendment to the Constitution of the United
States would prohibit the establishment of religion, not prohibit any mention of
religion or reference to God in civic dialogue. From Madison Avenue to Wall
Street, from activists and lawyers to politicians, educators and the media, a
culture is being created that shames people for saying Merry Christmas.
Ironically, many retailers, the same group who flood our mailboxes with catalogs
and advertisements urging us to purchase gifts for Christmas, have done away
with the Christmas greeting Merry Christmas in their stores. Employees have been
told not to say Merry Christmas to customers. This is political correctness run
amok. The attack on Christmas, while not new, has now shifted its focus from
overtly religious symbols, like the nativity, to symbols regarded by most
Americans, including the Supreme Court, to be secular symbols of Christmas, a
federally recognized holiday. Now these innocent secular symbols are causing
concerns of insensitivity. Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes, Christmas
carols, even the colors red and green, they have been place on the endangered
list. They say to boil a frog you have to do it gradually because if you throw
it into boiling water, it will jump out; but if you put the frog in cold water
and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will never know he is being boiled
until it is too late, and I am afraid that is what is happening to us with our
Christmas holiday. Madam Speaker, the transition to replace Christmas with this
vague 'holiday season' is a gradual process that over the past few years has
reached a new crescendo. Let us protect the symbols and traditions of Christmas
for those who celebrate Christmas, or before we know it, we will be looking at a
holiday season that represents nothing and celebrates anything. I for one do not
want to surrender and let retailers, overzealous civil liberty lawyers, and the
media make me feel guilty for wishing someone a Merry Christmas. For
generations, Christmas has been a public expression of the celebration of the
birth of Christ. I hope we can say that for many more years to come."
Eleanor Norton (D-DC): "....I cannot help but note the
irony of a bill celebrating Christmas or its symbols coming on the floor in a
session that has just destroyed Christmas for millions of poor people. I am
going to make a request of this Member, because I know her and I respect her and
I regard her as a friend. And as a Christian, I am going to ask her in the name of
interfaith tolerance if she would withdraw this resolution
because it is needlessly divisive, and I think she did not realize when she put
it in how divisive it is. For example, the gentlewoman said Merry Christmas to you, Madam
Speaker. I do not know what your background is. But I do not believe she
would have said Merry Christmas to the gentleman from New York (Mr.
ACKERMAN). And in a real sense, that sums up where our country has come
simply to be tolerant of the fact that we are from many faiths, and we do not
want to insult anybody. And I say to you that, far from references to Christmas
needing to be supported, they are glorified, and we all know it. The notion
of giving any aid and comport to the Fox campaign against 'happy holidays'
would be funny if it were not so serious. Understand how 'happy holidays'
developed. It developed out of a country, first and foremost, where there
was rampant anti-Semitism. Now, of course, we have many more, we have
many more religions and much more diversity. It developed simply out of a
sensitivity, so we developed proxy language, and so everybody feels comfortable
even when it is not your particular religious holiday. I am not
going to go up to a brown-skinned person in a turban and say, merry Christmas.
I think that it is more appropriate to say, happy holidays. Maybe
the gentlewoman understands why this is important for people who, unlike her
and unlike me, are not Christians. If you do not want to feel guilty for wishing
someone merry Christmas, I do not want to feel guilty for saying happy
holidays to someone whose religious background I do not know.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA): ".... this resolution purports to
protect the symbols of Christmas, but what really needs to be protected are
not the symbols of Christmas, but rather the spirit of Christmas. The spirit
of Christmas demands generosity and goodwill towards others. Instead of
legislation that respects the spirit of Christmas, Congress in just these
past few weeks has passed a budget that includes mean-spirited attacks on
the least of us:
For those who are hungry, we are cutting food stamps.
For those who are sick, we are cutting Medicaid.
For those who are in prison, we are imposing senseless mandatory
For others we are ignoring increases in heating costs and cutting
At the same time we are cutting those programs to help the least of us,
we are cutting taxes for the wealthiest in society. Madam Speaker, we ought
to express our passion for Christmas through deeds, not words; and we should
not be distracted from our responsibility to uphold the spirit of Christmas
as we consider the effects our actions on the Federal budget will have on
the least of us during this holiday season. For these reasons I oppose this
Rep Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL). "....As Americans, we enjoy the freedom to
practice our own faith. This heritage inspired the American tradition of
respecting individuals in their right to practice their religion, regardless of
faith. However, it seems that, in recent years, zealous liberals have tried to
destroy this heritage. It all started when schools would no longer call their
annual winter recess a Christmas break in order to be politically correct. Now,
instead, there is a holiday break, in many instances thanks to actions of the
ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union.
While this may be a valid point since various religions observe holidays around
the same time, they would not stop there at the erosion. There is a war against
Christmas. Our children cannot sing Christmas carols. They can only sing holiday
tunes. And now, instead of a Christmas tree, advertising calls them holiday
trees. There is no reason why we cannot honor and cherish the traditions of
Christmas while also doing the same with Chanukah, Kwanzaa or any other valued
religion celebrated in America. America should never single out a religion for
the purposes of banning or looking down upon references to their holiday
celebrations. That practice flies in the face of the principles that our Nation
was founded on. Instead, we must treasure the traditions that remind us of our
history and of our country while at the same time respecting Americans of
different faiths. As such, I strongly support HouseResolution 579 which
recognizes and supports symbols and traditions of Christmas."
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY): "....The bottom line is there was a good-faith
effort made by [Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)] to change 'recognizes the
importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas' to 'the symbols of
Christmas and Chanukah,' and you said no. It was an attempt to change
'strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas' to 'ban
references to Christmas and Kwanzaa,' and you said no. It was a chance to
take this and put it into the words that... [the resolution's sponsor] says
that she intends. The question must be, why? For someone who does not
celebrate Christmas, the question looms: Why? Why not say to someone who
wants to make this inclusive that, indeed, we are going to make it
inclusive? The symbols of Chanukah are not valuable? Sure, they are, I
think. The symbols of Kwanzaa are not valuable to some? Sure, they are. I
cannot imagine why the gentlewoman who is the sponsor of this, who says that
she speaks from a sense of inclusion, would not want to include those. Are
those not worthy of being protected? What is the message that is being
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI): "....I have a little poem:
'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House,
no bills were passed `bout which Fox News could grouse.
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
so vacations in St. Barts soon should be near.
Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds,
while visions of school and home danced in their heads.
In Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan,
and nuclear weapons are being built in Iran.
Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell.
Americans feared we were in a fast track to ..... well.
Wait, we need a distraction, something divisive and wily,
a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.
We will pretend Christmas is under attack,
hold a vote to save it, then pat ourselves on the back.
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger,
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger.
This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go,
From churches to homes to schools and, yes, even Costco.
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy
when this is the season to unite us with joy.
At Christmastime, we're taught to unite.
We don't need a made-up reason to fight.
So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter and those right-wing blogs.
You should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs.
'Tis the holiday season; enjoy it a pinch.
With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch?
So to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight,
a Merry Christmas to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, happy holidays.
Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas."
Reaction of the National Jewish Democratic Council:
National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman
"Yes, Virginia... and North Carolina, Oklahoma, New Jersey and others...
your GOP representatives believe in the imaginary 'war on Christmas,' and
apparently they think this is the best use of Congress' time. And apparently
they think nothing of pressing their Jewish House colleagues to actually
cast a congressional vote in favor of Christian 'symbols and traditions,'
and they refuse to offer the same supposed protections to the symbols of
Chanukah. The House GOP will go to any length to erect a straw man for the
sole purpose of knocking it down -- anything to avoid dealing with our
country's all-too-real problems."
"In this case, House Republicans are adopting the talking points of the
most extreme, most divisive far-right elements in today's society -- and
making that agenda the work of the people's House. Aside from being a
colossal waste of time, it's divisive, it excludes other practices and
faiths, and it buys into the conservative fantasy that there's some war
against the 95 percent of Americans (according to Gallup) who celebrate