The Secularization

of Christmas

   The secular agenda is to secularize Christmas--to turn it from a holiday celebrating the historical birth of Jesus into just another cultural event.

    But Christians must not let this happen.

    As Jesus said:

"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28)


Examples of Such Secularization:

Cases in Selected Circuits

  A few examples of an intensifying secular trend are as follows:

    (1)    Florey v. Sioux Falls School District 49-5, 464 F.Supp. 911 (D. S.D. 1979), affirmed, Florey v. Sioux Falls School District 49-5, 619 F.2d 1311 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 987 (1980)).  Though the Florey decisions upheld the constitutionality of a Christmas program with religious elements, the courts held that such religious elements had a secular effect.

    The Florey district court (Bogue, District Judge) gave its basis for upholding the constitutionality of the school's new Christmas program rules:

Because Christmas music with religious content has been assimilated into our culture, this Court finds that the performance of Christmas music with religious content does not constitute a religious activity per se.  The primary effect of presenting these materials at a school Christmas assembly in accordance with Rule 3 is not to promote a religion.  Therefore, Rule 3's primary effect is secular.

464 F.Supp. at 916.

    Thus, the Florey district court secularized Christmas.  And in some places, this secularization of Christmas is a trend that has continued and intensified as time goes on.

    (2)     In 1993, the United States District Court, District of New Jersey upheld the constitutionality of holiday recognition in public school where the school calendar acknowledged both secular and religious holidays, including non-Christian holidays, on the basis of diversity and tolerance.  Read: Clever v. Cherry Hill Township Board of Education, 838 F.Supp. 929 (D. N.J. 1993).

    (3)    In 2000, the case of Sechler v. State College Area School District, 121 F.Supp.2d 439 (M.D. Pa. 2000) involved a winter holiday program at a public school in which symbols, rituals, and songs of cultural and religious holidays (non-Christian holidays) were displayed or sung, while a traditional Christmas carol was parodied and secular Christmas songs were sung.  Christianity was depicted in a secular and cultural way, and the Christmas tree was called a "Giving Tree".  The plaintiff complained that non-Christian religions "were emphasized while Christianity was under-emphasized or ignored."  Id. at 451.  Yet the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania held that the school display and program was constitutional and did not exhibit hostility toward Christianity.

   (4)    In Walz v. Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, 342 F.3d 271 (3d Cir. 2003), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that a kindergarten student in a New Jersey public school may not distribute candy canes with attached story entitled "A Candy Maker's Witness" (a story that mentions the birth of Jesus Christ) at the school's seasonal holiday party.

    Note, however, that students who distribute gifts like this one are not "state actors" (people employed by or representing the state).   Therefore, any beliefs a student expresses cannot be a "state establishment of religion".  The student merely wished to give (for distribution during the in-class holiday party) pencils and candy canes in a state school--more precisely, at school-sponsored holiday parties held during the seasons of Jesus' birth and death/resurrection (Christmas and Easter (more properly, Resurrection Day), respectively).  These, traditionally, have been the historically established holidays for the winter and spring seasons, and thus the historical rationale behind Christmas (winter) and Easter (spring) holiday parties.  To celebrate the season, one needs to celebrate Jesus Christ, the reason for the season.  The historical basis for the Christmas holiday is the birth of Christ.  Therefore, distributing gifts referring to Jesus, during the party, at a time when parents or children are distributing gifts, cannot be compared to disruptive speech during a classroom lesson.  Such parties are for fun, and professedly to promote giving.  Yet the message sent to Christian children is: No mention of the Christ child is allowed at Christmas; such speech is somehow "disruptive".  But really, such suppression of Christian speech is a denial of the religious liberty which in actuality undergirds the true meaning of tolerance and diversity.

True Tolerance

    Christmas cards, signs, and wrapping paper say "Happy Holidays".

    To secularists, "tolerance" and "diversity" mean that other (non-Christian) cultural holidays are emphasized at Christmas at the expense of the true Christian meaning of Christmas.  But Christians know: This is the reason for the season: Without recognizing the birthday of Christ, there is no Christmas.  Christmas should be celebrated for what it really is: the birthday of Jesus Christ.  Christmas is not a secular holiday.

    In an age that professes diversity and the tolerant expression of all opinions, only one expression--the expression of true Christian origins and principles--is disfavored by the secular agenda.  Christians should emphasize that such disfavor is actually secular intolerance.

   The secular agenda is to de-emphasize Christmas' origin (the historical event that is the birth of Jesus Christ), whereas secularism does not suppress other (non-Christian) holidays' origins.

    This, in short, is attempted suppression of one religion (Christianity) to the benefit of others whose origins are discussed.  And such hostility toward Christianity is forbidden by the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses.

    In contrast is the religious liberty that only Christianity has brought to modern world civilization.  Upon this religious liberty was based the concepts of diversity and tolerance.  It is a Christian principle to never force religion on anyone (Jesus definitely didn't), and to allow everyone the freedom, knowledge, and opportunity to choose belief or non-belief for themselves.  Obviously this results in the free expression (tolerance) of all available viewpoints (diversity) in the marketplace of ideas.

    One early modern champion of civil and religious liberty, New Jersey's eighteenth century governor, Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757), demonstrated the true meaning of tolerance in a 1747 letter to his friend, Thomas Prince:

    Nothing will be so great a pleasure to me as to spend the few sands left in my glass in promoting virtue and true religion and to show favor and kindness to all sober people without regard to the distinctions they bear in the world as to religious matters.  I met [...] my dear Mr. [George] Whitefield with great joy at New York and heard him preach twice with his [usual] energy, for he continues the same seraphic creature.  That good soul is gone on his journey to Georgia, and I will say of him as Melancthon said of [Martin] Luther: "He is a precious servant of Jesus Christ."

    (To read more about the friendship between Governor Belcher (who was also the founder of Princeton University at Princeton, New Jersey) and George Whitefield, see: True Heroism and the Rule of Law; and Governor Jonathan Belcher.)

    (Incidentally, many eighteenth-century Puritans sang Isaac Watts' songs.  Watts' psalms and hymns included ones respecting the event of Jesus' birth-- e.g., songs such as "Joy to the World!" that are classified as Christmas carols.)

    Christians must have as much patience as God Himself does.  And He is very patient.  So patient He lets even secularism have its say.  That is the true, Christian meaning of tolerance.  The secular agenda attempts to suppress the Christian message through the use of secularism's false "tolerance" (suppression of all views that non-Christians disagree with or are offended by). However, the Christian message cannot be suppressed.

    Early Christian church father Tertullian said that secularists persecuted early Christians because they envied them: The Christian religion became so successful that it rivaled and supplanted the Romans' pagan religion.   Attempted suppression of the Christian message made it grow all the more.

    Religious liberty and free expression of ideas is what the United States Constitution's First Amendment is all about.  Forcing the "secularization" of the Christian origin of a Christian holiday is itself unconstitutional.

    But Christianity's glory is that it alone has true tolerance amid diversity:  Always shining the light of good cheer, and competing successfully with other views through the sheer greatness of its principles.  That is why America's glory was (and is) its Christian heritage.

    Christians must stand up for Jesus' principles and the celebration of His birthday.

For further reading:

Signs of Good Cheer

Bells of Good Cheer

True Heroism and the Rule of Law

Don't Hide God in a Closet: Religious Secularism and Public Acknowledgment of God in the 21st Century

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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