Opinion: Op-Eds

Christmas censors aren't taking the holiday off

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Op-Eds,Analysis,First Amendment,Freedom of Speech,Freedom of Religion,Holidays

Each December, misguided government officials and fearful corporate executives eliminate references to Christmas.

Inevitably, people object because the censorship seems so extreme and unnecessary. Amazingly, some deny that this Christmas censorship even exists.

But it does. ESPN recently relented from its initial refusal to broadcast the ad of a St. Louis-area Catholic hospital because it mentioned "the birth of Jesus" and "God's healing message."

As a constitutional attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, I have personally dealt with situations involving public school officials removing lyrics from Christmas carols or refusing to display student artwork because it contained the Nativity scene.

So when I hear someone deny that Christmas censorship happens, I feel like Neil Armstrong hearing someone claim the moon landings were faked. I was there.

It would be more honest (though wrong) if the deniers responded by claiming that the Establishment Clause requires such censorship, or that cultural sensitivity requires companies to ban "merry Christmas" and to order their employees to say only "happy holidays."

Instead, the deniers argue that Christmas censorship does not exist. Maybe they are confused by the vast array of Christmas decorations and music surrounding us each December.

A store festooned in red ribbons and playing "Jingle Bells" frequently eliminates the religious aspects of Christmas while leaving alone the holiday's less offensive secular aspects.

But people object to this suppression of the core meaning of Christmas that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ as the Savior from our sins.

The Constitution does not guarantee everyone the right to a cleansed corridor or require the government to remove everything someone finds "offensive" from their path.

Even if such a constitutional requirement existed, it would apply only to the government, not to private businesses and individuals.

A store clerk or a public school student saying "merry Christmas" cannot violate the Constitution because they are not government officials.

Instead, the Constitution requires the government to accommodate private religious expression, not obliterate it. Public school students have the First Amendment-protected freedom to express their belief in Christmas.

Government acknowledgement of Christmas does not violate the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court has upheld the federal government giving its employees a paid holiday on Dec. 25 and calling it "Christmas Day."

No federal court has ever required school officials to eliminate the singing of religious Christmas carols.

Every federal court addressing the issue has instead ruled that school officials can constitutionally use religious songs for educational purposes, such as to teach history (black spirituals) or to challenge the students' skills (like Handel's "Messiah").

American children would not be well educated from a public school curricula plucked bare of religious references. No Shakespeare? No Renaissance art? No speeches by Martin Luther King?

Nor do Fox News and talk radio bamboozle and manipulate gullible masses with emotional, exaggerated tales of a "war on Christmas."

That reporting of real events resonates with many because they have personally encountered similar acts of Christmas censorship.

Yes, Virginia, there is Christmas censorship, but the Constitution and "diversity" do not require it. And those demanding it should at least admit that it exists.

Jordan Lorence is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, an alliance-building, nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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