Christmas and the Culture War

Mixing religious beliefs with government creates controversy–at least in recent years. How do readers feel about issues relating to the celebration of Christmas? Here is a summary of responses to issues on the topic of “Christmas and the Culture War.”

Our survey last week on “Christmas and the Culture War” generated a record number of responses from readers.

As we noted in the introductory article, the celebration of Christmas has changed. Lawsuits are now filed over displays celebrating the birth of Jesus and many in our society now refer to the “holiday season” instead of Christmas.

We asked readers several questions to gauge their reaction to some of the changes.

The vast majority of readers appear to like acknowledging the religious symbolism of the Christmas season. We received a large number of written comments on the subject and many readers have very strong feelings on the topic of the cultural changes surrounding the Christmas or holiday season. Here is a quick summary.

On the question of whether state, local or federal governments should display religious symbols during the Christmas season, the overwhelming majority readers answered “yes.”

73% thought the display of religious symbols was appropriate. 20% said it was not; 4% were not sure and 3% answered “other.”

On the question of “Do you find the term “Happy Holidays” to be offensive, 64% answered “no.” 31% said “yes” and 3% were not sure. The other 2% selected “other.”

A large percentage (87%) opposed removing religious symbols from the Christmas or holiday season. 9% were in favor of removing them, 2% were not sure and 2% selected “other.”

As to whether a Christmas tree is a religious symbol, 81% said “no”; 12% think it is a religious symbol; 5% are not sure and 1% selected “other.”

And, finally, on the question of whether federal employees should be given Christmas day off since it is a religious holiday, 89% answered “yes” they should be given the day off; 5% said “no” and 2% were not sure. 3% selected “other” as their answer.

Many readers addressed the general issue of the role of celebrating Christmas in America today. Most strongly believe that changes have occurred and they do not like the changes. Numerous readers commented that America is changing its basic cultural values so as not to offend others and they are resentful.

Several readers made suggestions along these lines: A human resources supervisor from DoD in Washington, DC wrote: “We have come a long way since our ancestors passed an amendment which–among other things–forbid the equivalent of an Aglican Church to be the official established religion of the US–to ensure we would be free to practice our religion. Now, the Courts are using their power to FORBID the free expression of religious sentiment–exactly the opposite of the intent of the 1st Amendment.”

A Forest Service technicial from Bend, Oregon captured the sentiments of many readers when writing: “Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, it is a Christian holiday and I thought that the US is a Christian nation founded on Christian values. Why is it that Christians are the ones asked to change? Christ IS the reason for the season. Why do other faiths and nationalities take offence at this? If I moved to another country I would understand and respect the faith and holidays of that country, I wouldn’t try to change them. Perhaps we need to add to our personel files what faith we are, and be given one religous holiday off, be it Christmas or Hannakah or Solstice. Would that make everybody happy?! I doubt it!”

A technician from DoD in Havelock, NC commented: “I work in the South and things are very traditional here, although we seldom get a white Christmas. I see this as a Christian holiday, certainly, but also as a holiday of love, joy, and sharing which all can take part in, and as part of our “culture.” If you try to please everybody, you will please no one. Though we do have more of a trend to secularize this season, those of us who are Christians still celebrate our faith in the traditional ways. I am glad that our grandchild got to be part of the Nativity plays of his church run pre-school and now at his Catholic school. The Nativity plays: the costumes, the carols, and the story, were one of the brightest spots of my childhood.”

A District Director from the IRS said simply: “Enough of this PC crap.”

An Environmental and Health Technican from DoD in Bremerton, WA said: “The problem today is that people are too sensitive. All I can say is to get over it. If you don’t like Christmas, then don’t celebrate it. But don’t take you hatred for Christmas out on those who enjoy this holiday. I don’t go around and complain if someone celebrates Hanukah. Is it possible that Martin Luther King Jr. Day upsets some individuals? Should we stop celebrating Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, since some people find them to be offensive or at least controversial? “

And several readers commented that there is a war against Christianity in America today.

This Labor Relations Specialist from the Dept. of Homeland Security in Dallas expressed the sentiments of some readers when writing: “The suggestion in the article that it is debatable whether or not there is a cultural war against Christianity in this country is ludicrous – of course there is a cultural war against all things Christian. The American Civil Liberties Union has been waging this war for decades and the role of Christianity in the public square has been greatly diminished because of it. By and large, Americans have sacrificed their cultural heritage in the name of promoting cultural pluralism and the only religions that seem to have any significant standing are non-Christian. Recently the news reported that some Muslims petitioned for the right to engage in organized prayer sessions in public schools during the regular school day and were granted this request. Where is the ACLU on that issue? Christians would never be allowed to receive a similar consideration; they can only gather around the flagpole to pray before school or after school. Apparently prayer in school is okay as long as it does not involve Christian prayers. “

And a retired NASA employee from Washington, DC thinks that the separation of church and state has been misconstrued: “At the altar of political correctness, we as a country have slowly been sacrificing too many of our traditions and values. It is a shame to see Christmas being exorcised from our language and our culture. Even though our population is overwhelmingly Christian, we won’t permit any Christian or allegedly Christian symbols to be present on any hallowed government ground–and now it spreads to our retail stores. Yet, you still readily find religious symbols of non-christian religions because apparently that IS politically correct. This is an absurd reading of the separation of church and state clause. One can only hope it backfires on the merchants striving so hard to not offend. Maybe christians should re-claim Christmas from them and quit exchanging material things for Christmas. As the saying goes, “put ‘Christ’ back into Christmas.”

But there were some who took a different stand.

This contracting officer from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs in Fresno commented: “I find the whole “separation of church and state” thing a little disconcerting. The religious right wants to make ours a Christian nation and have the state enact laws to make it so. The first century Christian church didn’t find themselves in a Christian nation and Jesus never said it should be so. Christianity should be taught in the home. We are, once again, trying to shift the burden of raising our children to the state.”

A park manager from the Forest Service in Colorado wrote: “Keep religion out of the public square. Celebrate religous holidays at home, not in government or public buildings, parks etc.”

The question regarding giving federal employees a day off on December 25th to celebrate Christmas generated a number of comments from readers. Here is a sample.

A human resources specialist from the Department of the Interior in Sacramento, CA wrote: “Maybe the government holiday for christmas should be “for christians only”, and establish an annual religious holiday for all religions; a holiday for Jews, Muslims, etc, but celebrated on their respective days as determined by their religion. Each employee would have a holiday for their particular religion. We would each declare our religion and celebrate our own religious holiday; christmas for christians, and special days off for other religions. Atheists would work them all or just choose one.”

A safety engineer from the FAA in Washington, DC said: “Christmas is a Christian holiday–end of debate. The ‘holiday season’ is an invention of Madison Avenue and has no relevance to any non-Christian. I am Jewish and I do not consider December to be my holiday season. Let those who want to observe take annual leave, enjoy their holiday and leave me alone.”

A management analyst from Interior in Denver had this observation: “If Christmas is a federal holiday, why aren’t Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana and Chanukah?”

A manager in the VA from New York City wrote: “I have maintained for years that Feeral employees should not be given designated holidays, but, rather, should receive an equivalent number of days off that can be used at any time during the year, with managerial approval. Christians could use an official day off for observance of Christmas, and other beliefs could use the same day for other reasons and at other times. This would be less ethnically compromising, while still giving Feds the appropriate time off.”

And, taking a different stand, this staff assistant from the VA in Boston opined: “In January, we observe the birthday of the REVEREND Martin Luther King, Jr. Anyone ever voice an objection to celebrating the birth of a 20th Century religious leader? “

A pay technician from the State Department in Charleston, SC expressed this sentiment: “The constitution says “freedom of religion” not freedom from religion. If you don’t like, don’t participate. If government employees worked on Christmas Day, the same amount of work would get accomplished as if they had the day off! Go figure.”

And this from an EPA employee in Chicago: “Christianity is the largest religious denomination in the US. To convert Christmas Day to a work day would cause backlash across the Nation. Can you imagine how many people would take leave for that day? Can you picture how much work would be actually done on that day? If people don’t like it, then let them boycott the holiday and come to work instead. God bless us, every one.”

We received almost one thousand written comments in response to this survey. Thanks to the thousands of readers who participated and took the time to send in their comments on “Christmas and the Culture War.”