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Conflicts at Christmas time:

Reactions by various groups & individuals

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Reactions by religious and secular  groups:

Many rulings by American courts have declared that some references to Christmas by school boards, municipal governments etc. are constitutional because Christmas is a cultural celebration, and no longer a religious observance. Similarly, some courts have ruled that the "under God" phrase added to the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional because it is a cultural statement, not a religious expression.

Groups on both sides of the cultural divide over the separation of church and state hold opposing views.
bulletBarry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State commented: "This mixing of secular and religious symbols ought to be seen as a bad thing, not a good thing, for Christian believers. Unfortunately, some of the Christian pressure groups seem to have it backwards.  I think it's fair to say it's a mistaken notion that they have a mandate to put more nativity scenes up because George Bush was elected."
bulletGreg Scott, spokesman for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund said: "I think it is part of a growing movement of people with more traditional values, which make up the majority of people in this country, saying enough is enough." Motivated by stories of school districts banning the singing of Christmas carols on buses, his group has distributed to more than 5,000 schools a booklet which cites 40 years of case law that says it is legally acceptable to mention Christmas in public places.
bulletA conservative legal group, The Rutherford Institute, reported that it received a complaint from  some United Parcel Service drivers that they have been told to avoid wishing people a "Merry Christmas." UPS has denied the accusation as "silly on its face and just not true." Institute president John W. Whitehead said: "I think the businesses and the schools have just gone too far; this is the final straw. It's supposed to be a time of, what, peace and freedom and fun. And they've kind of made it into a secular....kind of gray day." They have reissued its "12 Rules of Christmas" guide to the celebration of Christmas. 1,2
bulletTony Perkins of Family Research Council titled his radio commentary on 2004-DEC-16: "Is the Grinch Stealing Christmas? He noted:

"The recent wave of protests against Christmas nativity scenes, carols and even candy canes are creating a distorted picture of religious freedom in America constructed of the new ABC's -- Anything But Christianity."

"Despite the fact that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas it seems that there are some 'grinches' out there determined to steal not only the spirit of Christmas but its meaning as well. The meaning of Christmas is not open to debate -- it's the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That's why it's called Christmas -- that's why we've celebrated it for the last 2000 years."

"The birth of Jesus is an historical fact that has had a tremendous influence on the development of Western culture. The public celebration of Christmas in our schools and our communities has both a religious and a secular value. That's why the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the public display of nativity scenes and the singing of Christmas carols in schools, done as a part of a broader celebration of Christmas, is constitutional and not, I repeat not an establishment of religion, as 'the grinches' and crew would have local authorities believe.""

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Suggestion by Cal Thomas:

In his "On the Right Side" column for 2004-DEC-15, Cal Thomas proposes a process of disengagement between Christians and secularists. This would minimize conflict between the two groups at Christmas time.

He suggests that Christians:

bulletDecline "...to participate in the orgy of consumption" at this time of year.
bulletFollow Jesus' commands to " 'feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison' and 'care for widows and orphans,' not to mention 'love your enemies' and 'pray for those who persecute you'."
bulletCelebrate Christmas in their hearts, lives and relationships.

He suggests that secularists:

bulletEnjoy their holiday time, including Christmas, and name it anything they wish.
bulletDisplay on public or private property whatever they wish, or nothing at all. 1

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Suggestion by Council on American-Islamic Relations:

Ibrahim Hooper is a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) located in Washington DC. He indicated that there are more pressing issues facing Islam and Muslims in the U.S. right now than debates over religion in the public schools. He said: "We have other priorities at this point. We just need to reach a balance where everybody feels their rights are maintained, in an atmosphere of mutual understanding." He suggested that schools educate their students about all major religions equally. He commented: "If there's a display case in the school, have a Christmas display one month, have a Ramadan display another month, have a Hanukkah display. You don't want to completely eliminate religious displays from the public square. I don't think anyone's in favor of that, except perhaps extremists.'' 3

In the U.S., such a policy may need to be extended to also include non-religious displays in order to make a more balanced presentation that would conform to the principle of separation between church and state -- a requirement in all public schools and government offices. Merely treating all religions equally may be insufficient, because it places the school in the position of promoting religion in general as superior to a secular lifestyle. Inclusion of secular displays may be necessary in order to meet constitutional requirements.

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A Canadian filmmaker / schoolteacher's approach:

Mitra Sen is a Hindu public schoolteacher in Ontario. She was concerned some of her students were not allowed to take part in multicultural celebrations. The parents did not want their children to be exposed to different cultural and religious beliefs. Her concern about her pupils motivated her to create a 48 minute movie: "The Peace Tree." It portrays the efforts of three girls -- two Muslim and one Christian -- finding a way to convince their parents. 5

According to Sandlewood Productions:

"The production of the film inspired Writer/Director/Producer Mitra Sen to bring the Peace Tree to reality by creating Peace Tree Day. The purpose of Peace Tree Day is to create a common festival where families and friends from all faiths and races can learn about and celebrate each other's cultures, traditions and festivals together. Peace Tree Day is a time to educate, donate and celebrate. This new festival will be celebrated on June 1 of every year. 6

The world’s first Peace Tree Day will be launched in Toronto, Ontario at City Hall on 2006-JUN-01.

More details.

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References used:

  1. Cal Thomas, "Let the rest of us take back Christmas," 'On the Right Side' syndicated column, 2004-DEC-15.
  2. Allen Breed, "Christians Aiming to Boost Religion," Associated Press, 2004-DEC-14, at:
  3. David Porter, "Same old song at Christmas: Do carols discriminate?," Associated Press, 2004-DEC-18, at:  http://kyw.com/
  4. Tony Perkins, "Is the Grinch Stealing Christmas?" Family Research Council, 2004-DEC-16, at: http://www.frc.org/ The radio spot's audio can be downloaded is a MP3 or RAM format.
  5. Nicholas Keung, "A peace tree blossoms in Scarborough," The Toronto Star, 2004-DEC-05, Pages A1 & A17.
  6. "The Peace Tree," Sandlewood Productions, at: http://www.sandalwoodproductions.com/

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Site navigation:

Home > Religious information > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Christianity > Beliefs, practices, etc > Holy days > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Religious hatred & conflicts > Specific conflicts > Xmas conflict > here

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Copyright © 2004 & 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-DEC-04
Latest update: 2005-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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