Sunday, September 16, 2018

The reindeer rule

“The War on Christmas” is a book by Fox News associate John Gibson, published over ten years ago. Despite its sensationalist title and subtitle, it's actually a relatively serious and “boring” book. Gibson details a number of anti-Christmas incidents around the United States, often involving petty harassment from ACLU. The most high profile case is from Eugene in Oregon, a liberal college town where the local authorities wanted to ban Christmas trees (!) in public institutions with the argument that these are “Christian” and are therefore “excluding” certain people. Sounds familiar?

The Supreme Court has apparently ruled, or is believed to have ruled, that nativity scenes are prohibited in public schools and government offices. Weirdly, Jewish menorahs are allowed, despite being connected to a religious holiday celebrating a miracle. Kwanzaa symbols aren't controversial either. Christmas trees are legal provided they are secular. The tree's secular character must be clearly marked, for instance by being surrounded by representations of reindeer. This is known as the “reindeer rule”! It seems jolly old Santa isn't banned either.

Gibson argues that ACLU and other liberals want to ban Christmas outright in public institutions, especially schools, and are constantly campaigning to remove even secular references to the holiday. The author believes, correctly in my opinion, that this is really a specifically anti-Christian campaign, not a serious move to increase “diversity”. Of course, it could also be seen as a “postmodern” attempt to erase the collective memory of the population, in this case by abolishing a long established tradition. Perhaps Christmas would have been attacked even if it had been purely secular? A peculiar trait of the controversy is that Christmas Day (December 25) is a federally established holiday, yet the anti-Christmas “grinches” never attack it for breaking the Establishment Clause. Perhaps it's still too early for the nuclear option, or perhaps it doesn't matter since most public institutions in the United States aren't “federal”?

“War on Christmas” may be for you, if you're interested in the American culture wars, the history of Christmas celebration or constitutional issues. However, if you're a hater who wants to be shocked by what you read, you might get away disappointed by the levelheaded style of the author.
Merry Christmas, BTW.

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