*** Milestone: 150th Post ***
There is a sentiment in the far-left media and the liberal blogosphere that the War on Christmas is 1) overhyped, 2) a scam and 3) being made into a big deal by Bill O'Reilly. Well sorry folks, it is as real as the holiday's namesake, and as serious as a heartattack. Unless, of course, Bill O'Reilly's influence caused a Lutheran church in my area to post signs noting that they are "Putting Christ Back in Christmas".
To understand the situation, we must first understand the true meaning of "respecting an establishment of religion". These five words essentially pertained to the case of the Church of England in the 17th century. When the persecuted set sail from European shores and headed for America, they were fleeing oppressive state-sponsored religious institutions. These churches, even the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, had no tolerance for deviation from a strict normalcy, as witnessed in the case of the Knights Templar in the 14th century.
The Framers understood the threat to religious minorities posed by a powerful religious body held in high esteem by the governing bodies of a nation. Nevertheless, leave it to the crowd that believes in the "living and evolving Constitution" to interpret this phrase as frowning upon any public display of religiosity. Whether it's a manger display or simply the utterance of "Merry Christmas", public and private institutions alike have begun to shy from and even discourage this behavior. Cities and towns have banned nativities (here - policy reversed), or sanitized them of religious connotation (here). Private organizations like Target, Home Depot, and Best Buy have banned the Salvation Army from soliciting donations in front of their thousands of nationwide stores. The Target Corporation says its policy applies to all types of solicitation and refers to it as "a distraction".
In justifying their policy, Target says they give $2 million a week to communities. Well excuse me if I'm not appeased. For one, I most definitely will not be buying any shares in the Target Corporation anytime soon. As Milton Friedman notes in his 1970 essay on the social responsibility of businesses (PDF file), the social responsibility of business is to maximize profits. Once this is achieved, and the multi-million dollar salaries are doled out to executives, they can do with it what they please. Until then, the revenues of a corporation belong to its shareholders, and it is their decision whether the profits are donated or not.
The truth is, full-time charities are the most efficient at allocating donated funds to the most needy as much as a corporation is the most efficient at acquiring capital and producing a product that will maximize potential profits. By disallowing one of the nation's foremost philanthropic groups prime collecting property, i.e. heated or shaded areas protecting from the elements, these corporations are effectually hurting their ability to provide charity. They are forced to take up spots on the street where people walking by are trying to keep warm or simply don't have time to stop and take out the money to donate that would be close at hand when leaving a store with a handful or pocketful of change due to an in-store purchase.
Another touchy subject is the utterance of "Merry Christmas" by pretty much everyone, from governments to private corporations and private citizens. They suggest the safe alternative, "Happy Holidays", instead. What's the harm in combining the two, especially when less than five percent of the public is offended by the words "Merry Christmas" alone. According to a Fox News poll (take this with a grain of salt, for I don't care much for polls), only five percent of Americans celebrate Hanukkah and only two percent celebrate Kwanzaa. This means about fifteen percent of the nation celebrates a holiday they have no religious ties to, since about eighty percent of Americans identify as Christians.
The implication here is that of those celebrating the holidays, nearly all celebrate Christmas this time of year, and for some of them it's just a time to give presents (these people would more readily identify Santa Clause as the primary symbol of the holiday as opposed to Jesus Christ). When a Gallup poll shows 62% of Americans saying "that generic greetings -- such as "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" -- are a "change for the worse", wouldn't it seem logical to default with "Merry Christmas" and fall back on, or include, "Happy Holidays" simply to protect profits?
The fact of the matter is that the ACLU and its buddies have instilled fear of the "fascist right-wing" in many Americans. This leads some to pause when contemplating the "Merry Christmas" or "Season's Greetings" greeting card set for friends and family this Christmas season. I encourage everyone out there, especially God-fearing Christians, to not hesitate when saying Merry Christmas. However, just in case your conscience gets the better of you, add a "Happy Holidays" to ease your worries. You wouldn't want to offend someone, would you?