Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The “War on Christmas” Returns to Indiana

I hadn’t intended to write another post about the faux (or is that Fox?) “War on Christmas” but two articles about an Indiana state senator who plans to introduce another so-called “Merry Christmas bill” caught my attention … and got my blood boiling. Again.

First, there was yesterday’s front page article in The Indianapolis Star‘Merry Christmas’ bill is back — and bigger than ever” and then last night’s story from local Fox affiliate WXIN (no I didn’t watch the news story; I saw a link to it on Twitter this morning) “Lawmaker’s ‘Merry Christmas bill’ would protect Christmas displays on government property”. Go read them if you want (or, you can even watch video!). Essentially, the bill to be introduced by Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown) would permit municipalities and schools to erect overtly religious holiday displays so long as a display recognizing another holiday is also included. Back in February 2014, I wrote in detail about a similar bill introduced in the Indiana General Assembly: The ‘Merry Christmas’ Bill: Indiana Inches Ever-Closer to Becoming a Theocracy”. That bill actually passed the Senate but the House never took a vote.

Let me first call your attention to some of the things that Sen. Smith said to explain why he apparently believes this sort of legislation is needed:

  • “The Christmas season encompasses so many meaningful traditions, but many times these traditions and the people who participate in them are threatened… This bill is a step toward defending a sacred holiday that is otherwise being stolen from our children and our culture…”
  • “The tactics are certainly threats and intimidation to silence people…”
  • “We are as a nation allowing this to continue… We are certainly stealing Christmas from our children and from our culture.”
  • “We are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and Christmas is a national or a federal and state holiday… So if they don’t like the holiday, they should probably lobby members of the General Assembly and those in Congress to remove Christmas as being a federal and state holiday.”

I think those four quotes should give you an idea of the intellectual powerhouse that we’re dealing with in Sen. Smith. I mean, really? Christmas traditions are being threatened? The people who participate in Christmas traditions are being threatened? Really? Um, how? Is Sen. Smith worried that the Atheist police will raid his home, business, or church and stop he and his family from celebrating Christmas? Is he worried that an alliance of local Jewish and Muslim groups will prevent Christians from eating their Christmas ham because it isn’t kosher or halal? Is he worried that Buddhists will try to stop Christians from erecting Christmas trees in their homes or decorating their property with lights? Is he worried that … oh, hell, I don’t know who … is going to try to stop stores from having Christmas sales or advertising all sorts of doodads and widgets to be sure that Christians make the most of the commercialization of their holiday? Because certainly Jesus would have wanted people to save 15% on the cost of a new set of tires!

And does he really think Christmas is “being stolen from our children and our culture”? Really? You know, it was just yesterday that I saw a bunch of Satan worshippers dragging a Santa out of a shopping mall as a horde of children screamed in terror. This weekend, I tried to shop for a last minute Chanukah gift at Toys-R-Us, but before I could buy the gift I had to prove that it wasn’t a Christmas gift because the toy manufacturers are no longer allowing Christian children to receive Christmas presents. And I have it on good authority that pastors who try to hold Christmas worship celebrations on December 25 will be arrested and sent to Glenn Beck’s FEMA reeducation camps. What? None of that is true? But Sen. Smith said that Christmas is being “stolen” from our children!

Just for fun, here is what I wrote on the same subject earlier this year in regard to the prior incarnation of Sen. Smith’s proposed bill:

The “War on Christmas” is once again being fought here in Indiana. After last year’s stunning defeats in which all Christian houses of worship were banned in the State of Indiana and Hoosier children were required to convert to Islam, some Hoosier lawmakers are trying to fight back. Um, what? Christian churches weren’t banned last year? Hoosier children can still invoke the name of Jesus in their prayers? Christmas trees are still permitted on front lawns and in family rooms? The shopping malls still have Santa Claus? Are you sure? Hmm. Oh, I see now. A greeter at Walmart said “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas and an elementary school teacher didn’t do enough to proselytize to the students in her class.

But I’m sure that Sen. Smith has no trouble whatsoever with Jewish or other non-Christian school children being compelled to sing about the divinity of Jesus in public schools. So query whether Christmas is being “stolen” from children or whether it is being forced down the throats of those who have different beliefs. And query how Sen. Smith would feel if his children were compelled to attend a school function at which Allah was praised, Christian belief belittled, or colanders handed out to help students honor the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Perhaps the tradition that Sen. Smith is really concerned with, the one that has him proposing this legislation, has nothing to do with actually celebrating Christmas or other Christian holidays; rather, it seems that the tradition he is really worried about is the tradition of proselytizing and trying to convert non-Christians. Isn’t that what he’s really worried about? That he can’t convert enough heathens himself, so he needs the local, state, and federal government to help him? The “threats” and “intimidation” that he is concerned with aren’t the threats to minorities within our society but rather that some minority communities — damn them! — would have the gall to suggest that the majority, you know, follow the law as set forth in the Constitution. That some minorities might want to stand up for the themselves or the protections afforded them by the law and ask people like Sen. Smith to stop trying to use the government as a weapon to shove a particular religious viewpoint upon others. As I’m fond of doing, let me again quote Article 1 Section 4 of Indiana’s Constitution: “No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.” I wonder how many of our state legislators have ever read that provision. Next time you talk to a state legislator, ask them to tell you what Indiana’s Constitution says about religion. I dare you.

Finally, and I don’t want to take too much time on this point as I could go on and on and on and on, but despite the “history” lesson that Sen. Smith probably received from Fox News, Glenn Beck, and David Barton, he is simply wrong: The United States is not a Christian nation and it was not founded on Christian principles. Again, to repeat things I’ve previously written, for those interested in learning how to respond to the repeated arguments that the United States is a Christian nation and the attendant “facts” that many, primarily on the evangelical right, like to toss off as “proof”, then I highly recommend Chris Rodda’s Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History. Chris has also posted a series of video takedowns of the right’s favorite “historian” David Barton who never quite manages to let facts get in his way. Oh, and perhaps someone should send Sen. Smith a copy of the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by Founding Father (and President) John Adams and unanimously ratified by the United States Senate in 1797 (you known, when lots of Founding Fathers were still involved in the new United States government), which proclaimed: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”. That’s right. Just a few years after the adoption of the Constitution and the First Amendment, the Senate unanimously ratified a treaty that specifically stated that the United States was not “founded on the Christian religion”. But, hey, I’m sure that in 2014, Sen. Smith knows better than those Founding Fathers, right? Right?


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