Culture wars over Christmas displays: where the law stands
Christmas displays have been a big part of the culture wars for years, and 2009 is no different. Hot spots include Sonoma County in California, where angel and star ornaments in government buildings caused controversy.
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"If we put the religious or Christmas decorations up, we'd be offending a whole other group of citizens and taxpayers," a city commissioner told a local news station.Skip to next paragraph
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“In such a litigious environment, where public displays of religion are routinely challenged, many public officials take the easy way out and surrender the square to a complete secularization of the winter holidays. No manger. No menorah. No lawsuit,” wrote Randy Singer, author of “The Judge Who Stole Christmas,” in a 2005 op-ed for USA Today.
He said government Christmas displays could include religious symbols “so long as the religious symbols do not predominate." He continued, "Privately sponsored displays in public forums are granted even greater latitude. The bottom line: Religious symbols in the public square are not constitutional contraband.”
But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which many religious conservatives charge has been “waging a war against Christmas,” still takes issue with religious displays on government properties.
"Every year around this time, the 'culture warriors' renew their holiday howls decrying the ACLU's 'War on Christmas.' This ritual of bombast and disinformation misleads many people to believe that the ACLU is on a mission to remove Christmas from the public consciousness," the ACLU said in a statement. “What the ACLU does oppose is the government favoring a specific set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of others. The Bill of Rights establishes that the government should not be in the business of endorsing any one religion.”
Merry Hyatt of Redding, Calif., would disagree with the ACLU on that issue. Ms. Hyatt wants to pass a law that would require Christmas carols in public schools during the holidays. She is collecting signatures to put the issue on the state ballot.
It’s a cause that has some support among other Redding Tea Party members. Erin Ryan, president of the local branch, told the Record Searchlight in Redding, "Bottom line is Christmas is about Christmas.... That's why we have it. It's not about winter solstice or Kwanzaa. It's like, 'wow you guys, it's called Christmas for a reason.' "
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