Celebrating Christmas in America

For many Americans, Christmas is one of the most joyous times of the year. It’s a time for families and friends to gather together, and for many Christians it is one of the holiest days of the year.

White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, It's A Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf: Christmas images and stories have themselves, in a variety of ways, become part and parcel of American culture.  Local businesses value Christmas not only because of the spirit of the season, but because it contributes to the busiest and most profitable shopping time of the year. Unlike Ebenezer Scrooge's counting house in 19th century London, American stores, businesses, museums, and government offices are typically closed on December 25th. Even the ACLU closes on Christmas! [For an ACLU expression of Christmas cheer, read this USA Today op-ed.]

In recent years, culturally conservative commentators have declared that there is a so-called “war on Christmas,” and in many cases have claimed that the ACLU is leading the charge. This simply isn’t true.

Religious expression is a valued and protected part of the First Amendment rights guaranteed to us all.  Christmas is pervasive in America, and, except when the government is being used to promote religious beliefs, it is entirely constitutional.

While Christmas displays are being placed in front of homes, churches, and businesses across the country, and as carolers go door-to-door with songs of Christmas cheer, these culture warriors say that Christmas is being removed from all public mention and persist with such declarations about a "war on Christmas."

The constitutional rights of people to worship, preach, sing carols, and celebrate Christmas in their churches and with their families and friends — whether in public or in private — is well-protected. The ACLU itself has advocated on behalf of people who want to celebrate Christmas. The real question is not whether people can celebrate Christmas (they most certainly can), but whether the government should be promoting religious beliefs and practices (it most certainly shouldn't).

When the smoke of battle clears, Christmas is completely safe.

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