“Merry Christmas” is a “Content Violation”

Our readers have differing views about the celebration of Christmas and the role of religion in American life. But one agency says “Merry Christmas” is a “content violation.”

The level of interest in some topics can be surprising.

As it is the season of good cheer and an important time for religious celebrations in America and elsewhere, it is a time of year for many to celebrate the good things in people and to show how good and kind people can be.

But, perhaps because of politics or changes in American culture, it is also a time to debate political issues that are focused on the holiday season.

Earlier this month, we ran a survey on “Christmas and the Culture War.” Thousands of readers responded to the survey and almost 1000 people added their views on the issue in the anonymous comments sent in along with their vote on the survey questions. (Here are the results of that survey.) Our original depiction of the issue and how it is playing out in American in 2005 is here.

Another 84 people added their comments when we published the results of the survey.

In other words, the topic of Christmas and the role of religion in American culture has become a “hot button” issue across the political spectrum. The opinions ranged from those that were not, to put it mildly, enthusiastic about celebrating Christmas such as this one from a labor relations specialist in the Postal Service: “Majority Christians have enjoyed a former period of dominance in this country during which they amassed privileges whose propriety would later come into question, e.g., releasing students from public schools during class hours for religious instruction, compulsory teacher-led school prayer and Bible reading, school-sanctioned prayer at public-school graduations.”

The response from some readers would be considered by some to be outside the celebration of peace and love associated with Christmas. Here is one response from a reader in the Department of Defense: “If you’re so negative about our society, why don’t you move to another country? It would probably give you peace of mind and hopefully make for a more joyful life elsewhere. Consider it.”

But, even knowing there were strong feelings on the issue, and a variety of political and religious beliefs among our readers, we did get one surprise.

Last week, we sent out a message with this headline: “Merry Christmas: President Bush Signs Pay Raise EO”

The headline story was obviously about the executive order authorizing a pay raise for federal employees for 2006.

We send out tens of thousands of e-mails each day to subscribers of our daily newsletter. But, In one agency, the phrase “Merry Christmas” is considered spam and the enthusiastic guardians of federal employee e-mail blocked delivery of our newsletter for that day.

Perhaps we should be surprised it was only one agency at one faciity. In any event, several readers did not get their daily e-mail because of we used the offensive term “Merry Christmas.” Here was the e-mail we got back:

Subject: Content violation
Content violation found in email message.
To: (a subscriber)@ms.ngb.army.mil
Subject: FedSmith.com: Merry Christmas! President Bush Signs Pay Raise EO

Matching Subject: *merry christmas*

No doubt the “spam bot” thought the message contained a virus. Fortunately, it appears the tens of thousands of other readers were able to get their e-mail despite our use of “Merry Christmas.”

So, to all readers (with the apparent exception of the Missississippi National Guard Bureau), I hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a joyous new year.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47