Note: this will be an abbreviated, one-hour debate, after which we will have a party celebrating the Yuletide.
The First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the making of any law “respecting an establishment of religion” or “impeding the free exercise of religion”. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson later wrote, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." The US Supreme Court has repeatedly cited Jefferson's metaphor of a wall of separation in its rulings on religious issues.
So why do we have a federally recognized holiday called Christmas? Why not Winterval, Festivus, or Yuletide? What about the non-Christians among us? What about the Bill of Rights? We can still have a holiday on December 25, and it can still be promoted as a celebration of giving and sharing but it doesn’t need a name that is associated with a specific religion.
Others might respond: say, what?! Christ and the Christmas story are about love, humility, and compassion. These aren’t just Christian values – they are universal. And the Christmas story adds a moving narrative that brings home how precious life is and how much we have to be grateful for. Christmas is a holiday that transcends the great Church-State divide and can bring out the best in all of us.
So, what do you think? Change the name of Christmas to something secular, with no religious overtones? Or keep “Christmas” as is, in all its messy, ambiguous, religious-secular glory?
Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate this Motion. Note that there is a $5 fee charged by the Commonwealth club for non-members to the club.
Some Links for further reading: