-By Chris Slavens
It’s that “most wonderful time of the year” again. Children eagerly await a visit from jolly Santa Claus, while their parents try to squeeze shopping into a schedule already filled with parties, parades, church programs, and visiting relatives. Grandmothers bake dozens of gingerbread and sugar cookies, while rascally uncles down too much eggnog. Wealthy northerners travel to Florida to escape cold weather, while everyone else yearns for a white Christmas.
And the ACLU—that staunch defender of American traditions and values—threatens to sue public schools for acknowledging what all the excitement is about.
Each Christmas season is marked by a series of spirit-dampening stories of towns forced to disassemble nativity scenes, retail stores intimidated into requiring employees to use generic greetings like “Happy Holidays,” and similar Scroogish travesties. This year, one such story comes from Tennessee, where the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to 137 public school administrators, supposedly in response to complaints from families, reminding them not to focus on any one religious holiday.
In other words, don’t call Christmas parties “Christmas parties.” Call them winter celebrations, holiday galas, solstice shindigs, or any other creative misnomer that obfuscates their true purpose and creates a comfortable non-reality for the handful of unfortunate students whose malcontent parents are offended by the celebration of a holiday that is jointly religious and secular in nature.
A recent Rasmussen poll found that 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas, while a mere 6% do not. Of that 6%, only 25% celebrate an alternative holiday. That’s a whopping total of 1.5% of Americans who celebrate a December holiday instead of Christmas. And, apparently, most of them live in Tennessee; how else could that state’s chapter of the ACLU have received so many complaints?
Defending the letter, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, cites U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and hints that acknowledging Christmas could be considered an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
She is alluding, of course, to the oft-misinterpreted establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from establishing a state religion. It obviously applies to a third-grade teacher planning a classroom Christmas party for the last day before break—or so those on the far left argue, rather unconvincingly.
Could it be that Weinberg is one of the 6% of Americans who do not celebrate Christmas, and is using the ACLU’s legal muscle and financial assets to push a personal agenda? Such Grinch-like behavior would certainly be unprofessional, if not unethical. If there was a Santa, Weinberg would be on the naughty list for sure.
The ACLU expects public schools to stage a pointless charade of pretending that the concerts, parties, and vacations common to this time of year are not specifically scheduled around December 25. This is an unreasonable expectation which deserves no serious consideration.
The correct course of action for public school administrators to take is to ignore the ACLU, which is not a government entity and does not represent the views of a majority of parents. It would be wrong to alter school policy simply to avoid the hassle of a lawsuit; this would be yielding to what is called the “heckler’s veto,” by which an antagonistic group goads the government into restricting another group’s First Amendment rights. In this case, the hecklers are the ACLU and the instigators it claims to represent.
Lawsuits are expensive, true, and no administrator wants to be on the receiving end of one, but what is the cost of a lawsuit compared to the cost of an eroded culture and disunited society, purposely divided by secularist troublemakers who value political correctness over common sense?
Chris Slavens is a libertarian columnist. He lives in Delaware. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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