The Merry Christmas Bill

Photo Courtesy of luigi diamanti /

In June of this year, the state of Texas passed what has been called the "Merry Christmas" bill.  This bill allows schools to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah," along with "Happy Holidays," so long as more than one religion or a religion and a secular symbol are represented.

The point of the bill was to allow schools to celebrate these winter holidays without having to resort to awkwardly renaming the Christmas tree - holiday tree - and the Christmas party - holiday party - and the like.  Instead, two (or more, I suppose) of these holidays will be acknowledged together.

In spite of the possible confusion of mixing holidays together, I certainly understand the idea behind it.  I don't find a lot of problems with this because I recognize a Christian's Jewish heritage in Hanukkah, and I recognize the historicity and cultural implications of both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, even though I personally do not celebrate either of them.

What I am less comfortable with is how far this idea can be taken.

In 2012, a privately-funded statue of the Ten Commandments was placed at the Oklahoma state capitol.  As a result, a satanic temple is now in the process of raising funds for their own monument to be placed nearby.  As far as I can tell, this hasn't been officially approved yet, but once they have collected the money they need, I have a hard time seeing how the government will be able to deny them.

Logically, I understand the thinking behind this, but I have a hard time with it nonetheless.

It reminds me of the time Paul spent in Athens in the book of Acts.  He explored the city before he spoke out at the Areopagus.  He saw the myriad of gods worshiped in Athens.  The people of the city were attempting to cover all their bases by erecting monuments (idols!) to every god they could think of and even one they couldn't think of - the unknown god.

I realize our current situation stems from a desire for fairness and equality rather than making sure every god is covered, but I fear the result will look the same.

I would love to hear any thoughts you have on the issue, so long as they are thoughtful and respectful.  I hope that after you comment you'll also use the sharing buttons below so that others can join the conversation.

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6 Responses to The Merry Christmas Bill

  1. I'm all for using the holidays as a means of educating children about all the different celebrations going on this time of year. We live in a very culturally diverse community, and I think it's helpful for our children to have some basic working knowledge about each of them.

  2. It is definitely a great opportunity to learn about other cultures. I remember learning about the different ways various countries celebrated Christmas, but we never really learned about other holidays at the same time, such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

  3. Freedom of religion, that's why the pilgrims came to the new world. Who should decide what religion a community practices. This is why I am against organized prayer in school. Who decides who they pray to? The teacher? Principal? Children can't be stopped if they want to pray in school. This stems into why I am against homeschooling for religious reasons, or to protect their children from evil influences. Why not teach your children to be positive Christian influences on the other kids in school?

  4. It's definitely a hard line to walk between freedom of religion, evangelism and protecting your children! I went to public schools and came out fine, but I worry about how it will be as time goes on.

  5. Tis as some say a "sticky wicket"... yet, less sticky when one recognizes that the USA was built on the premise of freedom of religion (meaning that there would no government sanctioned religion). I do believe that if we are to be truly "diverse" and "democratic" then either we shall find ourselves as the Civil Liberties Union (in Skokie found themselves years ago) defending the right of Nazis to have marches through towns and/or we shall recognize that the secular government is simply that, "secular," and as such all mention of all religions would have no place in public corridors with the exception of the education of children and of the public, about the many, many different belief systems that make up this spinning blue marble we ALL share. We are coming into a new age now, for many many years, the country 'acted as though' the government was secular while having, for example "In God we trust" on our currency and reading prayers before Congressional sessions. Again, the idea of the nation was that those coming to this country for religous freedom was the freedom to NOT have a government church - nevertheless, the defacto religion in the nation seemed to be Christian. I do believe in complete separation of church and state, meaning that the state protects the right to ALL to practice privately the religion of their choice. Celebrations and holidays and the like are wonderful, however as I believe Kirra is suggesting opening the door to greater diversity opens the door to ALL (including belief systems that might be at odds with humanist values as we know them ) - and I am not quite sure that is practical, possible or desirable.

  6. It may not be in the near future, but I am starting to think that if we continue allowing the ideas of freedom of religion and free speech to go in the direction it has been, we will be allowing every possible belief system. That has implications for so many areas, such as polygamist cults and other negative or illegal religious views. For how long will we be able to continue denying religious practice when freedom of religion and free speech is such a big issue? It's not that I think that freedom of religion and free speech are bad ideas, but when allowed to their fullest extent, I don't like what that might look like. We've been drawing a line for certain things, but the line isn't so hard to move.


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