|ACLU versus Christmas rev. 11.15.2008||Back to Lessons|
The ACLU and the So-Called "War on Christmas" (from ACLU Online [ACLUOnline@aclu.org] )
By Jeremy Gunn, Director, Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief
A few years ago, a group called Public Advocate for the United States (which claims to defend America’s traditional family values) sent some Christmas carolers over to sing in front of the ACLU offices in Washington. Carrying signs reading “Merry Christmas” and “Please Don’t Sue Us!”—they also seemed to carry with them some rather strange imaginings about an assault on Christmas. I don’t know what the carolers thought might happen.
To tell the truth, the ACLU is not often serenaded by Christmas carolers. More likely, we realize the holiday season has arrived when we start to receive angry phone calls, emails and cards accusing us of trying to destroy Christmas. So it was with some excitement that the staff went outside and joined in the singing. They brought with them cookies and warm drinks to share. One staff member, who is an ordained Baptist minister, did a little witnessing about his faith to some astonished proponents of family values.
This is just one example of how some groups have used a mythical “war on Christmas” to demonize the ACLU, crush religious diversity, and make a few bucks in the process. Not only do they claim that there is a “war on Christmas,” they insist that the ACLU is leading the battle cry. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
The ACLU supports the rights of Christians and all religious people to celebrate their holidays in public spaces. What we do oppose is government action that promotes or endorses particular religions or religion over non-religion. Our views are dictated by the Constitution of the United States and are motivated by our commitment to religious liberty for all Americans.
The ACLU works to ensure that people remain free to choose which religious beliefs (or none) they wish to express and that governments, school boards, and legislatures do not become involved in deciding which religious beliefs should be promoted or in spending taxpayer dollars to support religious activities and symbols. We remain fully engaged in defending a broad range of constitutional rights, including rights related to freedom of religion and belief. It is sometimes wrongly imagined that the ACLU does not vigorously protect rights of freedom of religion, particularly of Christians.
What the people who attack the ACLU don’t understand is that our real strength is sticking to fundamental principles—we know that for true religious liberty to flourish, everyone must be free to practice their religion free from government interference. Thank you for everything you do, and have a peaceful holiday season!