Written by John Bambenek
Published November 21, 2007
Part of The Culture Wars
Much like the Christmas shopping season, the ACLU’s War on Christmas begins earlier and earlier every year. This year in Fort Collins, Colorado, the city council decided to revise their policies to honor appropriately the holiday that almost ninety percent of America celebrates as Christmas. A task force was drawn up, given their task, and put to work.
Like most task forces set up by governing bodies, the result is only as good as the people you put in charge. In this case, the head of the ACLU in Fort Collins was tasked with running the committee. The result was obviously predictable.
The task force recommended no Christmas lights, no recognition of Christmas, no use of the colors red and green, no Christmas trees, and to otherwise squelch anything even remotely connected to Christmas. Instead, they suggested decorations of icicles and prominent use of the color brown. In short, they suggested returning Christmas to its millennia old pagan roots.
At the city council meeting to vote on the proposal, hundreds of people showed up to voice their concern (instead of the 10-15 people who usually show up) and the proposal was shot down 6-1. The lone dissenting voice protested saying that residents would feel left out and alienated by the city recognizing that the overwhelming majority of citizens are celebrating Christmas.
It’s an interesting argument. Tolerance requires that people practice their faith in such a way that never leaves anyone out. Even if you took this argument at face value; that would effectively mean that no one could practice religion because the moment you identify with a group, you tacitly isolate those who are not part of that group. The idea that the First Amendment, designed to protect citizens from government, requires a destruction of all uniqueness is odd indeed.
However, it isn’t a matter of simply suppressing religion from public life. These calls simply do not exist (even in the Fort Collins matter) when the religion in question is Judaism or Islam. The ACLU’s goal, based on their track record, appears to be to prevent the public proclamation of Christianity in the name of the First Amendment. The bastardization of the Establishment Clause far beyond its intended meaning to require the government to enforce secular humanism on the people is to get the entire Bill of Rights backwards.
Horace Cooper, senior fellow with the American Civil Rights Union stated that it is inappropriate for “the government to pick and choose with faiths it will support and denigrate.” The Establishment Clause, followed immediately by the Free Expression Clause, does not allow the suppression of a religion in the name of “diversity.” In this case, the champions of diversity aren’t really interested in what they preach; they simply want to redirect hate and intolerance to their desired targets. It’s using the government to play the game of power politics. However, in this case — because of the efforts of the ACRU — the effort failed.
The ACLU generally uses intimidation to achieve victories that even the courts won’t provide. By intimidating local officials with the threat of the ACLU, many simply cave and give the ACLU what they want. It is telling indeed that the Fort Collins ACLU head was in charge of this task force. In this case, it was the vigorous opposition of the local people combined with the ACRU that prevented the suppression of free speech and expression of an overwhelming majority of the community.
This intimidation has led to groups being formed to counteract the far-reaching agenda of the ACLU to build and impose a societal view outside the framework of the democratic process. Examples include the ACRU, which also has a courtwatch project to monitor Bush’s judicial nominations, and other groups like the Thomas More Law Center and the American Center for Law and Justice.
One fact that should give everyone pause is that these debates about society now take place in courtrooms, argued by lawyers and decided by unelected judges. While there is a degree of balance with these groups, the wholesale removal of large social questions from the people has done much to not only undermine the notion of American self-government, but also call into question whether this country is really a republic anymore.
While this latest battle in the War on Christmas has subsided, the removal of the battle from the people to lawyers and courtrooms, and the fact that free expression of Christianity is under fire by the largest “civil rights” group in the country, should make us all think. This year, we can at least be thankful those who celebrate Christmas can still do so publicly as those who celebrate Ramadan or Hanukkah can do. Time will tell if the ACLU will succeed in telling us which religions and holidays we’re allowed to recognize.
John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for BC Magazine and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. By trade, he is an information security professional, part of the Internet Storm Center and a courseware author and certification grader for the GIAC family of security certifications. He is a syndicated columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans and other children in Tanzania to get an education.