Sunday, December 18, 2011
Christmas: A Celebration of Freedom
It is Christmastime. As a Jewess, I sometimes feel like I'm watching someone else's party through a window this time of year, but there are some things I've learned to associate with Christmas: evergreen boughs, my coworkers' Christmas cookies, and atheists.
Christmastime always brings out the atheists, who object to Christmas displays on government property. They humorlessly instruct us that the decorated tree represents an establishment of religion, and that figures kneeling around a child violate the First Amendment.
This year, right on cue, a Wisconsin atheist organization has threatened to sue Henderson County, Texas over the nativity scene, pictured above, displayed outside its courthouse, stating that the display "excludes non-Christians and non-believers."
The atheists have it exactly wrong. While non-Christians and non-believers might not share the celebration of Christmas, their non-belief does not exclude them from participation in American civic life, nor does it deny them the equal protection under the law that is the birthright of every American, symbolized by the very courthouse that stands behind the nativity scene. No matter how many Christmas trees and nativity scenes stand on government property, no one in America is required to celebrate Christmas, accept the divinity of Christ, or believe in God.
The voluntarily nature of religious belief in America is significant. According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, more than 90% of Americans continue to profess a belief in God, and a 2009 Gallup Poll found that 77% of Americans identify as Christians. There are more than enough Christians here to make belief (or at least practice) mandatory, but they don't.
If I were to walk past the Henderson County courthouse nativity scene with a blinking menorah on my head, I would still be welcomed inside the courthouse and treated fairly. This is tremendous, it takes my breath away. The fact that so many Americans share a core belief but do not impose that belief on others has led me to this conclusion:
Christmas trees and nativity scenes on government property are among the most powerful symbols of freedom the world has ever seen.
Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Birthday to the Man whose example and sacrifice brought dignity to the lives of millions around the world through the religion established in his name.
Posted by Lilac Sunday at 3:40 PM