Tomorrow is the day when those of us who are not Christians really see ourselves as a minority. The rest of the year, we are Americans, just like all the other citizens of this country. But tomorrow, the celebration of the birth of the founder of the Christian religion, we are outsiders, our sensibilities being ignored by everyone in power.
Libraries, museums, and all other city, county, state, and national Government buildings (except for emergency facilities) will be closed. The post offices will have been selling Christmas stamps for the past few weeks; postal clerks may even be shocked if you tell them you don't want Christmas stamps (I remember one year going to a post office which had nothing but Christmas stamps! I had to settle for lower-denomination stamps that I could combine to make the then-current postal rate!) Oh yes, they have had, in recent years, Chanukah and Eid stamps as well, but there are never enough variations to account for all the various religious beliefs in this pluralistic country, not to mention atheists and agnostics. Why not just let the Government ignore all the various beliefs and keep to its secular business?
One runs into people who claim that “no establishment of religion” in our First Amendment means the government cannot favor one Christian denomination over others, not realizing that Christianity is just one religion among many. I can not fathom this point of view. Giving special preference to Christianity over Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, or even atheism is just as much establishing a particular religion as taxing us to support the Episcopal Church would be.
Fifty-five years ago, I was subjected to a humiliating treatment by my own teachers in public school as a 10-year-old boy because of my religion. I declared that I could not sing songs with words like “Oh come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” Up until that time, my music teacher had treated me as a “teacher's pet” because I had a good singing voice. From that point on, she conspired with another teacher to make things as hard for me as possible. So I say what I am saying here from a basis of experience.
Nobody is advocating a policy such as that in Saudi Arabia where a person can be criminally prosecuted for selling Christmas cards. Rather, let Christians freely celebrate Christmas in their homes and churches (and other religions' adherents freely celebrate their own religious holidays in their own homes and places of worship) but let the Government stay out of these celebrations and be resolutely secular and neutral.
A happy December 25th to all. But please don't wish me a “merry Christmas.” Please don't wish anyone a “merry Christmas” unless you know they are a Christian.
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