While the battle of whether the nation should celebrate or recognize Christmas in public areas continues to increase each passing year, many federal employees have expressed their views that acknowledging Christmas in public settings is the thing to do.
In fact the top fed, President Bush, celebrated the holiday by mailing out a record 2 million Christmas cards – which contains a verse from Psalms, 95:2: “Let us come before him with Thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Presidents have been sending out cards to friends and supporters since Calvin Coolidge in 1927, but the current President is the first to send out Christmas cards with a message from Scripture.
But there is a catch – in order to avoid charges that the President is using his office to build support for his political agenda, the cards and mailing costs are paid for by the Republican National Committee to keep the protestors at bay.
Likewise, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also took a public stand by renaming the state’s holiday tree a Christmas Tree. While some attacked the governor on the premise of injecting religion into a public ceremony and possibly offending people of other faiths or those of no faiths, his press secretary answered the critics by stating that the governor “called it a Christmas tree because that’s what it is.”
The controversy that has become Christmas is swirling around communities across the nation. As reported this week, several instances have erupted at various cities across the nation, including:
In Bay Harbor Islands, Fla., a local resident offered to donate a Christmas nativity scene to be displayed alongside a public Hanukkah exhibit, but was initially turned down by town officials. The resident took the matter to federal court where a judge forced the town to allow the citizen to put up the display.
A federal judge had to order a school district in Texas to allow students to give gifts that included religious messages, such as Christian-themed candy canes, at school holiday parties. More so than at any time in the nation’s history, Christmas, its symbolism and its celebration are being challenged as it relates to public displays and acknowledgement.
At the federal level, a survey of FedSmith.com readers revealed that there was overwhelming support for keeping Christ in Christmas. In fact, many argued that acknowledging Christ when having Christmas celebrations was no different than honoring God in the courtroom or on the nation’s currency, both very public institutions.
Here is what they said. Of the following holidays, Ramadan, Christmas, Kwanza and Hanukkah, 59% of readers said there was a public display of Christmas this year at their agency. 8% said there was display for all of the holidays listed above, while 23% said there was no display at their agency for any of the holidays listed above. Another 8% indicated they weren’t sure if there was a public display at their agency regarding any of the holidays. 1% said there was a public display for Hanukkah at their agency and slightly less than 1% said there was a display for Kwanza at their agency. No readers reported seeing just a display of Ramadan at their agency.
88% of survey-takers said they disagreed with removing the word “Christmas” and other religious terminology or symbols from public displays and ceremonies this time of the year. 10% said the agreed that “Christmas” and other religious terminology should be removed from public displays this time of year, while 2% said they were not sure.
As expected, readers had plenty else to say on the topic – again with a very high majority expressing their support for keeping Christ in Christmas regarding public celebrations and acknowledgements.
Numerous readers pointed out the obvious – you can’t spell Christmas without Christ.
“It is CHRISTmas, people – that’s the reason for the season. Otherwise call it winter solstice and stay at work through it all,” wrote one fed.
Several readers wondered if the people who did not celebrate Christmas and didn’t want to be subjected to Christmas were as adamant about having to accept the paid vacation day off as a result, such as this survey-taker:
“Why is this day considered to be a government holiday – what exactly are we celebrating? Santa Claus coming to town? It has been my understanding that Christmas was a religious celebration long before it became a ‘government holiday’ and a government issue.”
Another federal employee says: “Multi-culturalism is a misleading term. We do not gain from washing Christians and their holidays from our awareness. Our strength is in our unity, in spite of our differences, not our diversity, because of our differences.”
One fed said that all religious ceremonies come down to a simple concept – respect:
“Our office offered all the employees an opportunity to decorate according to the holiday they celebrate. We have some people who celebrate Christmas and some who celebrate Hanukkah. I think the primary issue here is respect.”
Many feds said our freedom of religion works on behalf of all religions and that citizens should be more tolerant.
“I respect the fact that there are different religious beliefs throughout America – freedom of religion is a basic right of American citizens. I am not offended when I see religious symbols of a faith I don’t practice – why should anyone be offended by mine?”
One fed expressed their displeasure at being subjected to religious expressions in the workplace, but suggested that perhaps a holiday leave bank could be established where employees are granted taxpayer funded days off to use as they wish, when they wish:
“Christmas is a religious holiday, and, as such, has no place in the federal workplace. I would like to see all “federal holidays” abolished. Just give the same number of days to each employee and let the employee decide when and why to use them.”
Another reader suggested that it wasn’t fair for a taxpayer-funded agency to single out one religious ceremony or belief and omit another.
“Tax payer agencies should never show preference to or alliance with any one religion. Recognize or celebrate all or none,” the employee wrote.
A prevailing thought among many readers was that Christianity was being singled out over other religions, as stated by this employee:
“Secular Humanism is a religion/philosophy which cannot abide Christianity. Everything is acceptable in the name of diversity except Jesus Christ.”
So what does it mean for next year? Stay tuned, the “party” or “celebration” is apparently just getting started!
Thanks to all of our readers who took the time to submit their opinions and comments.