Sunday, December 20, 2015

Religious Freedom

Our parish priest includes inserts in our weekly bulletins, usually something he finds on the Internet.  Last week, it was a slightly updated version of a poem titled, T’was the month before Christmas that appeared several years ago on Facebook.  The author, at least to me, is unknown.  An adaptation of the well-known Christmas poem, the piece takes a poke at the politically correct crowd that would have us eliminate any reference to Christmas from our stores, schools, and government.

One of our parishioners was so moved as to have the poem printed on a full-page ad in a local weekly publication.  According to the owner of the paper who also happens to be a friend and fellow parishioner, this caused an unprecedented outpouring of responses, mostly positive, but also a couple of negatives.  One caller in particular threatened to get a lawyer and sue the paper, on what grounds I cannot imagine.  After it was explained to him that the ad was not an editorial, but a paid advertisement, and that he was free to pay the nearly $400 cost of his own full-page rebuttal, the caller backed off. 

For anyone interested in the content of the ad, I would recommend following the link in the first paragraph above to read it for yourself.  I have chosen not to reprint it here.  Suffice to say, it is critical of the politically motivated administrators, politicians and businesses who replace the word Christmas with Holiday.

While I am in full agreement that we have become way too worried about offending some non-Christian’s feelings, I am also uncomfortable with such public postings that cast a pall over companies and individuals that may or may not be warranted.  The Facebook poem is dated 2009.  While some companies did at one time discourage employees from wishing customers a Merry Christmas, a backlash caused many of them to rethink the directive.  Christians ought not act on an unhealthy desire to constantly portray themselves as victims of a Godless society, even when doing so may be justified.  Personally, I have no concern over a clerk saying “Happy Holidays” as the complimentary close of a transaction.  After all, the holiday season consists of multiple celebrations making a more encompassing wish sensible.  It doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is anti-Christian.

In a case where the government did try to suppress religious freedom, an area public high school recently drew the attention of PC police by including a live nativity scene in their annual Christmas concert.  The school district was sued on behalf of a student and his father by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation.  A federal court judge granted an injunction forbidding the school from organizing, rehearsing, or presenting a live Nativity as part of their program.  The school district complied with the order, sort of.  The Nativity portion of the program went on with mannequins in place of the students while the choir sang O Holy Night.  I’m sure whoever did not wish to participate had that option.  Kudos to the school district for allowing the program to go on.

The first amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  When did freedom OF religion become freedom FROM religion?  Perhaps the answer is found in a recent experiment performed on the Yale campus where a filmmaker asked students to sign a petition revoking the first amendment.  Within an hour, fifty students signed the petition that would in effect take away their right to petition.  Yale is where many of our judges and politicians are educated.  How many of them with this mentality are already in power?  Makes me wonder.