- - Thursday, December 24, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Most Christians in America never imagined a day would come when they would be shamed for wishing someone “Merry Christmas.” But “Christmas shaming” is growing nationwide, a symptom of a larger — and darker — trend that must be reversed.

Recent examples highlight an increasing hostility toward Christmas. In Salem, Va., for instance, a federal Veterans Affairs facility banned employees from wishing veterans “Merry Christmas,” and they briefly banned Christmas trees as well.

A shopping mall in Staten Island canceled its decades-long Christmas celebration.

A federal judge in Indiana halted Concord High School’s 40-year-old annual nativity reenactment. And Harrison County, Miss., faces a federal lawsuit if it does not remove a nativity display, even though it is accompanied by a pagan Winter Solstice display.

Christmas shaming is part of the decade-long war on Christmas. Some pundits mock this idea, and it’s true that Christians in America are comfortable compared to Christians in the Middle East, who face martyrdom daily. But the above examples are only a few of the growing instances of a militant campaign to end celebrations around one of Christianity’s holiest days.

The reality is that Christmas is an official federal holiday. Our nation pays its employees to take off a day dedicated to celebrating the Christian belief in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago. The U.S. Capitol and the White House display official Christmas trees each year.

The Supreme Court has validated these commemorations, holding that nativity displays in public spaces are constitutional if accompanied by other displays, and that Christmas trees are constitutional in any setting. The Constitution protects America’s centuries-old tradition of accommodating Americans’ expressions of faith. Celebrating the birth of Jesus is not an establishment of religion because the government acknowledges many holidays and it does not coerce nonbelievers to participate.

Christmas shaming is part of a larger movement against this nation’s people of faith. Our nation’s court system is burdened by unprecedented legal assaults on veterans’ memorials simply because they include a cross. The coercive power of the state forces Americans to fund health care plans that cover abortions or participate in wedding-related activities that violate their sincerely held beliefs. This trend rejects our Constitution’s celebration of the rich diversity of thought, opinion and belief.

It is up to all Americans to renew their commitment to respecting this nation’s religious diversity. People of faith — particularly Christians — need to do their part. They should respectfully but unapologetically express and live out their own faith, including heartily wishing those they meet a “Merry Christmas” without fear that the recipient will balk at the greeting. People of goodwill can appreciate a sentiment of well-wishing from someone who offers it from a different perspective.

Christians should never feel ashamed for who they are and what they believe. They need to stand firm and remember who they celebrate this time of year, and in whom they put their faith and trust all year long. After all, they are named for the one who the New Testament promises, “whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

Merry Christmas.

Kelly J. Shackelford is chief executive officer and chief counsel of Liberty Institute.


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