- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 1999

Christmas, wrote the judge, is no unconstitutional plot.
It’s Christian but mainstream, like it or not.
That was the ruling Monday from a Dr. Seuss-inspired federal judge who handed down an unwelcome present to a Cincinnati lawyer who had sued to ban Christmas as a holiday for federal employees.
U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott, punctuating her decision with a humorous commingling of the literary and the judicial, dismissed a lawsuit filed by Ohio lawyer Richard Ganulin, who claimed the Christian holiday and time off given to federal workers violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
Judge Dlott’s nine-stanza poem, which was modeled on Dr. Seuss’ popular fable “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” accompanied her formal opinion handed down late Monday.
In that opinion, the judge said Christmas, while a religious holiday for many, has become secularized and the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that as an inescapable fact.
“The celebration of Christmas as a national holiday cannot be viewed, by a reasonable person, as an endorsement of religion,” Judge Dlott wrote. “The holiday itself is so deeply imbued with secular connotations that, indeed, its religious origins are lost on many.”
Mr. Ganulin, who said he does not believe in divinity and has never celebrated Christmas, said he would appeal his case on the grounds that the judge did not treat the issue with the “strict scrutiny” it deserved.
Since he filed the unpopular lawsuit in 1998, Mr. Ganulin, 48, has become well-known as a bah-humbug kind of guy.
“The Grinch is in Cincinnati, and he’s trying to steal Christmas,” proclaimed Dayton (Ohio) Daily News columnist Jeff Bruce.
Though unprepared for the backlash his lawsuit has spawned, Mr. Ganulin said the uproar has been more than angry name-calling.
“Scrooge and Grinch. Those are the nice names,” said Mr. Ganulin, an attorney for the city of Cincinnati. “I wish those were the only names.”
“There have been threats,” said Mr. Ganulin, a graduate of George Washington University law school. “I have had to live with the fear that were the court to speak to a view that I’m advancing, some self-proclaimed righteous individuals would do the duty to do harm.”
The lawsuit was opposed by a pro-Christian organization representing federal employees, three of whom were named to protect their rights to the holiday. Attorneys for the Christian Coalition, while not a party to the lawsuit, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
The coalition’s brief, however, did not focus on whether Christmas is religious or secular. Instead, lawyers argued that making Christmas a national holiday was simply a regulation of the work hours of federal employees.
Despite the judge’s ruling, Mr. Ganulin, an environmentalist and vegetarian, said he will appeal the case on behalf of the 35 million non-Christians like himself who live in the United States.
He is not against Christmas, but believes it should be a personal holiday, not a federal celebration. In the eyes of the law, he said, all religious beliefs should be held as equal, but those who are non-Christians “either intentionally or by neglect are willing to absorb Christianity just because it’s too hard to fight it.”
“The power of Congress shouldn’t be used to benefit any particular sect,” he said. “The establishment of Christmas as a national, legal public holiday by the government enhances the status of Christians in our society and diminishes the status of non-Christians.
“No other sect in the United States is so favored by the government,” Mr. Ganulin argued in his lawsuit. The holiday creates “a major symbolic link between the government and Christianity.”
Judge Dlott disagreed, ruling that the holiday did not violate Mr. Ganulin’s right to equal protection under the law or freedom of association.
“The court has found legitimate secular purposes for establishing Christmas as a legal public holiday,” she said.
“When the government decides to recognize Christmas Day as a public holiday, it does no more than accommodate the calendar of public activities to the plain fact that many Americans will expect on that day to spend time visiting with their families, attending religious services, and perhaps enjoying some respite from pre-holiday activities.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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