"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
The Real Majority
It is generally recognized that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas. For one wondrous season, the overwhelming majority of people in the most powerful nation on earth pause to recognize God’s most precious gift to the world—His only Son, a baby sent to earth and born to die for our sins. Granted, not all Americans celebrate Christmas for the same reason. As families gather and gifts are opened, some are unaware that this holiday celebrates the First Gift of the One who would ultimately bring salvation to the world.
This 96% statistic is surprising to many. During the past decade, Americans have been led to believe that the public celebration of Christmas somehow undermines American values of diversity and pluralism. The politically correct crowd sees no particular merit in lifting up Christmas over other holidays that are celebrated by only a handful of Americans.
Congressional Recognition of Christmas
Last year the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith by a vote of 372 to 9. In addition to those nine members (all Democrats) who actually voted against the resolution, 10 others (9 Democrats and 1 Republican) refused their support by voting “present” and 40 others did cast any vote at all. Yet all but two of those Representatives who voted against the resolution or who voted “present” had supported a previous resolution to honor the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, a resolution that passed by a vote of 376-0, with 56 members (49 Democrats and 7 Republicans) voting either “present” or not voting at all. The language of the two resolutions was very similar. They honored Christmas and Ramadan as two of the great world religions, expressed support and friendship for people of both faiths, and rejected bigotry and hatred against people of both faiths in the United States and around the world.
The resolution honoring Christmas also recognized the historical importance of the Christian faith and acknowledged its role in the founding of the United States and in the formation of western civilization. That politically incorrect reality may be the reason a small minority of Congress members, as well as 4% of Americans, are so set against any public recognition of Christmas or Jesus. This small but determined army resents the fact that America has historically been a God-fearing and Jesus-honoring nation. They would prefer to wipe that fact from the minds and hearts of the American people. In order to accomplish that goal, this small group is determined to convince their fellow citizens that any public celebration of Christmas is unconstitutional and anyone who recognizes Jesus in public is violating the Constitution—deliberately ignoring the fact that the entire American experiment in rule by the people was originally founded on Biblical principles.
Don’t Be Misled
Many Americans now wrongly believe that Christmas must be hidden inside homes and behind church walls. Some businesses still substitute “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas.” Public schools are perhaps the worst offenders, seeking to misuse their power over the minds of children to turn them against the religion of their parents. Some public schools now have “Winter Break” instead of “Christmas Vacation.” Town Christmas displays often contain nothing more than reindeer and elves. Even devoted Christians inexplicably avoid religious displays on their own property. With every season that the true meaning of Christmas is ignored in our communities and in our schools, momentum builds away from the traditional recognition of Christmas in America. Is this necessary? Is it truly mandated by the Constitution? Or is it simply a colossal case of misinformation intended to send America down the wrong road?
Don’t Give Away Freedom
In this season of gift-giving and receiving as Christians remember God’s most precious Gift to the world, we do well to also remember the priceless gift of freedom bestowed upon Americans over 200 years ago in the Constitution. Based on the Declaration of Independence, this document gives every American certain fundamental rights which cannot be taken away.
But for most Americans, unfamiliarity with the law leads to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. It can also lead to manipulation and to Americans giving up rights that others fought and died to establish. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, concluded that “Information is the currency of democracy.” The simple knowledge of the law—opening the gift of understanding, if you will—can dispel fear and uncertainty and allow Americans to stand up boldly for their freedom.
What Can Christians Do?
All Americans are free to decorate their houses and property however they choose. This includes religious displays. Christmas decorations on privately owned property are strictly the discretion of property owners—although those who live in deed-restricted communities need to pay attention to their own community rules as well. Furthermore, individuals are absolutely free to express their celebration of the season by wishing others a “Merry Christmas.”
Privately owned businesses such as restaurants, malls, apartments, private clubs, and stores are not subject to any governmental principles of “separation of church and state.” Any individual or privately owned business has an absolute right to choose to display religious items that is strictly protected by the First Amendment. If a business owner wants to display ONLY religious
Christmas decorations, he is constitutionally at liberty to do so.
Christians should bear this in mind when choosing which stores to patronize for Christmas shopping. Store owners who choose to ban employees from wishing customers a “Merry Christmas” or who refuse to display religious decorations are in many cases merely responding to a handful of “hum-buggers” who go out of their way to complain about a Christ-centered Christmas. If a particular store is opposing the traditional religious nature of Christmas, it is completely appropriate for a Christian to inform the store owner of that disagreement and then choose to shop at a different store. If enough people take this sort of strong stand in support of a traditional Christmas, they can influence our culture for good. Every individual’s voice is important. Just remember to reflect the grace of Christ and to keep a good Christian testimony while expressing your opinion.
What about Government Property?
It is correct that certain restrictions, whether legitimate or not, have been imposed by our courts on government-sponsored Christmas celebrations. Schools, courthouses, and other government buildings fall into this category. But it is important to remember that even these regulations do not completely ban religious displays in public places. In these situations, court-imposed rules require a balance of secular and religious displays.
Christians should not fall prey to the myth that religion must, of necessity, be removed entirely from the public square when Christmas decorations are government-sponsored. Remember that the original intent of “separation of church and state” was to keep the government out of the church’s business, not to keep the church from positively influencing the government! While this fact has been grossly misrepresented in schools, in the media, and even in recent court rulings, governments are still permitted to recognize and honor the religious holidays of their citizens, as
Congress did last year.
Cities are absolutely allowed to include a nativity scene in a public Christmas display. Government buildings may hang “Merry Christmas” signs and decorate Christmas trees. The law does not require Jesus to hide on His birthday. Court rulings simply require the presence of secular items as well. The generally accepted court rule is that religious expression may not be more than one quarter of any government Christmas display and the display must not have a purely religious intent. This “one-quarter” rule applies to all public displays on government-owned property. A holiday display may not be entirely religious, but it may contain religious items. In essence, if there is a nativity scene, there must also be Santa Claus, reindeer or other similar secular component. Many government displays also include a Menorah or other item to recognize and honor Jewish citizens during their holiday of Hanukkah, which occurs at the same time as Christmas.
Cities and towns are not in any way prohibited from sponsoring Christmas events, parades, and displays that contain religious themes. The only court-imposed requirements again are that the intent of the production may not be the promotion of any specific religion to the exclusion of others and that secular items are also included. Churches are free to participate in parades and other activities on government property; and Christmas carols can be sung at community events just as long as they do not occupy more than one-quarter of the time or space.
Many governments choose to forego any “official” Christmas display and, instead, to provide public space for citizens to display their own items to celebrate the season. In that case, all citizens are free to choose to display whatever items they like—even if the entire display is religious.
What About Public Schools?
Easily, the area that generates the most frustration and confusion concerning the celebration of Christmas is the public school system. At one time, all school children looked forward to celebrating Christmas in class. Today’s school children are falsely led to believe that even mentioning the “C” word might get them suspended or expelled. Separating the school system into its three parts—students, teachers, and the school as a whole—can help to clarify exactly what the courts allow our public schools to do at Christmas time.
First, just like every other American, public school students have free speech rights that extend all the way into the classroom. Students have the right to share their faith with their peers and their teachers at Christmas or any other time. Students can wear Christmas T-shirts or other items of clothing or jewelry to celebrate the season.
Court-imposed regulations for public school teachers are not as lenient because judges consider teachers to be government employees, capable of violating the Establishment Clause (“separation of church and state”). Teachers are not permitted to share their faith or to promote religion in any form with their students, but they may do so with other teachers and staff members. Christian public school employees may still have a tremendous impact on their school during the Christmas season. They should not be drawn into the lie that they must remove Christ entirely from their classroom. Teachers can objectively teach about the meaning of various holidays in their curricular material, including the meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ramadan. Teachers should encourage respect and sharing about the meaning of all holidays among their students.
Official School Speech
Lastly, because courts consider the public school as a whole to be a government entity, schools must follow the same court-imposed guidelines for cities and other government buildings. Using the “one-quarter” rule, public schools are allowed to perform a percentage of Christmas carols in a seasonal program. The carols simply must not take up more than one-quarter of the performance, and they must have a secular purpose—such as honoring the holiday or presenting diverse musical genres. By no means does the law require that traditional Christmas themes be removed entirely from public school programs.
The common misconception that schools must refer to the December hiatus as a “Winter Break” or “Winter Holiday” rather than a “Christmas Vacation” is simply this—a misconception.
Christmas is recognized on December 25 as a federal public holiday which is both secular and religious (5 U.S.C. § 6103). Because Christmas is a federal holiday, the word may be used freely and without inclusion requirements. Just as Congress officially recognized the Christmas holiday, schools may continue to refer to Christmas breaks, seasonal programs may be called Christmas programs, and Christmas decorations and parties are permitted. It is a myth that such activities are completely banned. Those 4% of “hum-buggers” are hoping that by encouraging the banning of all Christmas activities in school through misinformation that the Christmas tradition will die out on its own.
The Gift of Information
James Madison, the primary author of our Constitution, correctly observed that “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” Our founding fathers left the citizens of this wonderful country a great gift, but it is of little worth if it is not received and opened.
In much the same way, the gift of Jesus Christ, the One whose birth we celebrate during this joyous season, cannot be realized until it is personally received. Perhaps this Christmas, it would be wise to gain a fresh appreciation for both the gift of freedom and the gift of life in Christ. A knowledge of your rights as an American and your responsibilities as a Christian might just transform your life and the lives of others—both this Christmas and into next year–and the life of an Australian girl embracing the shores of America.
N.B This information was given courtesy of CLA – Christian Law Association
I pray you receive the gift of Salvation this Christmas! You can and the truth of this message is under "How Can I Be Sure?" in the My Favorites column on the left side of this Bible Buddies site.
"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." 1 John 4:14
Jesus is the reason for this season - Merry Christmas!I Love You,