Happy Sparkle Day

Just when you thought the naked public square could not be further denuded of religious influence, a new round of silliness comes along to prove you wrong. It’s December, and for most of us that means getting ready to celebrate Christ’s birth. But for the grinches of secularism, it’s time to tie themselves in knots trying to strip Christmas of its Christian content. Consider the repressive measures school boards have taken in recent years. In New Jersey, a high school student was reprimanded by the dean for singing "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" on school property. In Fayette County, Kentucky, school bus drivers were ordered not to wish children a "Merry Christmas"—under the threat of disciplinary action. Instead, the drivers were told to say "ho, ho, ho." Some schools allow kids to decorate trees, but only if they are renamed "giving trees" or "unity trees." Other schools even outlaw symbols of Santa Claus because he just might remind kids of the real St. Nicholas—a fourth-century bishop. City officials are scouring religion from our city streets as well: The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership now markets Christmas as "Sparkle Season." Perhaps most ridiculous of all, a Virginia high school principal ordered the editors of the school newspaper to be careful not to "associate the upcoming holiday with any particular religion." As columnist John Leo comments sarcastically, after all, "you wouldn’t want people to go around thinking that a Christian holy day is somehow associated with the Christian religion." These anecdotes would be almost funny if not for the fact that they represent the triumph of a court-mandated secularism in American public life. Since 1947 the Supreme Court has contorted the meaning of the First Amendment’s establishment clause to impose its own brand of religion: a settled and implacable commitment to secularism in public life. The result is that school boards now hunt down every remnant of religious custom and vigorously rout it out. The good news is that we Christians don’t have to stand passively by as the secular scrooges destroy all public celebration of Christmas. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) says many school districts are confused about what the law actually says about religious expression in the schools. For example, no court has ever ruled that public school choirs cannot sing Christmas carols. In fact, the courts have expressly permitted Christmas songs and symbols—even Bible reading—if they’re used to teach students about "the cultural and religious heritage of the holiday." The ACLJ has published a little booklet explaining the rights of religious students in public schools. It’s called "Knowing Your Rights." We’ll send you a free copy if you call BreakPoint. When school officials draw up their list of Christmas activities, tell them you’ll be checking it twice. If they try to outlaw Christmas carols—or even the words "Merry Christmas"—you can explain to them what the law really says. It’s time to say, "Bah, humbug" to the grinches who would steal Christmas by stripping the public square of all religious content—and reduce Christmas to "Sparkle Day."


Chuck Colson


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