Monday, November 21, 2005

Christmas chronicles

You can expect me to be all over Christmas stories this year. Or, to be more precise, stories drummed up by the right wing to suggest that Liberals hate Christmas.

Today's article is by Michelle Goldberg over at Salon, and it is a review of a book by Fox Anchor John Gibson called "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought." This being Salon, she does a very good job taking the argument apart and explaining why it's crap.

The basic problem with the argument is that it overreaches. There's no doubt that a few school boards or city councils have made some wrong calls in an attempt to avoid potential legal problems. But does that translate into a "liberal war on Christmas?"

incidentally, Ms. Goldberg points out that the ACLU, the villain in this conservative fantasy, has regularly defended the Christian's right to freedom of speech.
Ironically, when school officials do go too far, the ACLU is likely to challenge them, on the grounds that the government can neither promote nor restrict religious speech. "A lot of the things the ACLU does to help religious people and religious students are not high-profile cases; they don't get much attention," says Haynes. "The Christian student who is told she can't bring her Bible to school, the ACLU gets those kinds of calls, and often it doesn't become a lawsuit, but they will quietly tell the school you can't do this, you have to treat everyone fairly."

Indeed, one case that ACLU president Nadine Strossen loves to talk about is that of Rita Warren, a retired woman who calls herself the "Lone Ranger of the manger" and whose life mission is to put nativity scenes in public places. When she placed a plastic creche on the lawn in front of the government building in Fairfax, Va., the government ordered her to remove it. Warren called the ACLU, and they discovered that the city of Fairfax had allowed others to erect displays on the property. "Once the government allows displays of any kind to be placed on public property, it can't then discriminate against some display because of the viewpoint," says Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. "The government could not discriminate against her religious display any more than it could take specific action to promote her religious display. It has to treat us the same."
Interesting. But don't worry; the correct answer to this argument is that a few moments of clarity don't make up for all the other bad things the ACLU, apparently, does.

Of course Mr. Gibson and Mr. O'Reilly (also very concerned about this issue) are also worried about stores like Wal-Mart and Target choosing to have their employees say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas."

Wal-Mart could chain their employees to their cash-registers, have people whipping them with asbestoes whips, and Gibson and O'Reilly would defend their right to run their business as they like. But such businesses do not, apparently, have the right to instruct their employees what holiday greeting to give.

Anyway it's an interesting article; well worth checking out.

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