Carol Platt Liebau: Boston's "Holiday Tree"

Friday, November 25, 2005

Boston's "Holiday Tree"

Here it is -- political correctness run amok.

What kind of loser would be "offended" by there being a "Christmas tree" -- rather than a "holiday tree" -- in Boston, especially in a country that's 85% Christian, and where 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas?

Here's the thing: Atheists, secularists and anybody else in the 4% don't have to celebrate Christmas. That's their right -- and it's how it should be in America. But they also don't have the right to take the Christmas celebration away from everyone else, cloaking their opposition to Christianity (or religion generally) in the pathetic, sniveling guise of being "offended."


Blogger wile e coyote said...

Lots of insults directed at opponents, not much discussion of why a Christmas tree paid for with public funds, placed on public property and lit at a public ceremony led by a public official doesn't constitute establishment of religion.

I've read the blog. Where's the beef?

7:12 PM  
Anonymous LQ said...

The First Amendment prohibits Congress from passing a law setting up “the Official Church of the United States” or something similar. It does not prohibit the governments of the U.S., a nation with a Christian tradition going back to the founding fathers, from celebrating Christmas.

Atheists and non-Christians have no legal or moral right to force Christmas out of our public institutions. They do have the right not to celebrate it.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Draino said...

File Under: Who give a crap.

8:42 PM  
Blogger wile e coyote said...

LQ's interpretation of the First Amendment is not shared by the Supreme Court.

The branding of criminals was a common practice going back to the founding fathers. Does LQ think this means branding would not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment?

9:27 PM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...


Please note that the linked article says that the tree has been donated by Nova Scotia since 1917 -- there is no purchase with public funds.

And I'm aware (as I know you are) of all the First Amendment jurisprudence that allows overtly religious Christmas symbols (like nativity scenes) on public property, so long as they're accompanied by secular Christmas symbols. A Christmas tree is not a religious symbol. So you may ask -- "where's the beef?" I ask you: What's the problem?

And let's be honest: The tree isn't there because of a generic "holiday": It's there because of Christmas. What's so offensive about calling it by its proper name?

Oh -- and by the way, I'd have the same issue if "opponents" were trying to call a menorah a "holiday candlestick" (for those of the Jewish faith), and/or attempting analogous political correctness with symbols of the Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist faith.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous LQ said...


The Supreme Court does not share my view of the First Amendment, which is why we need to get more "originalists," like Scalia and Thomas, on the court.

I don't know much about the Eighth Amendment, but it seems to me that branding today would be unusual and therefore would be unconstitutional.

8:48 AM  
Blogger wile e coyote said...

I stand corrected: a Christmas tree NOT paid for with public funds, BUT placed on public property and lit at a public ceremony led by a public official .

The Supreme Court has made a great mess of this area, with thanks in particular to Justice O'Conner, who at one point held that a religious symbol was OK as long as it was so integrated into secular society as to have lost its religious meaning.

Of course a Christmas tree is a religious symbol. That's why it's called a Christmas tree and not a holiday tree

The question is the extent to which government can support or even promote faith or a particular denomination.

I agree with LQ in that some investigation into original understanding suggests that the First Amendment was never intended to excise faith from public institutions or discourse. As apolemical matter, Carol seems willing to apply a percentage of the population test, which raises questions, such as the applicable population (US, state, county, city, etc) and at what percentages a group can either get its way or get ignored. This test also leaves open the question of how much the group can get away with (e.g., Xmas tree v. denominational prayer, etc.)

Putting a Xmas tree on public property seems intuitively simple, but fashioning a rule for evenhanded application is (to my mind) quite hard. I feel some pity for a public official who would like to put up a Xmas tree to please his/her constituents (and make the public space look pretty in Winter), but who doesn't want to waste public time and money getting sued by the ACLU.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous sgk said...

>>I don't know much about the Eighth Amendment, but it seems to me that branding today would be unusual and therefore would be unconstitutional.>>

Might not prohibit tatooing though..maybe we should take a second look at this!

12:16 PM  
Anonymous sgk said...

>>Of course a Christmas tree is a religious symbol. That's why it's called a Christmas tree and not a holiday tree>>

On the other hand, as I understand it, December 25th is an official, legal, national holiday called "Christmas Day". So you saying that maybe we should change that to "Holiday Day"? And in addition to that the very word "holiday" is derived from the Christian practice of observing Holy days by not I guess that's out too? I guess we should pare that down to "Day Day".
Hard to believe that once upon a time there were actually constitutionally legal state religions...

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real issue here, disguised as political correctness over the naming of a Christian Christmas decoration, is how our civil liberties are being slowly taken away by the minority. This country was founded on religious tolerance. The need to rename a Christmas tree removes this tolerance that Americans have built our country around and could even be argued to be discriminant. The root of the issue stems from the fact that people are exploiting the Consititution regarding the nebulous subject of practices that cross the line between church and state. So how can such things, as renaming a religious decoration because it is not politically correct or "fair", be imposed on all of us? Because the people who are most offended by such tolerance, are going to city meetings, voting on city policies, having a say in how tax monies are spent, raising their case in court, etc. They are using the democracy to tip the scales in their favor. So if Christian Americans want to maintain their civil liberties then they need to get involved. To simply step aside and avoid the issue because you think it is "stupid" is basically saying I give up my civil liberties and chose to have others make my decisions for me. In fact, I think it is a bit of a double standard that one can argue that the use of the word "Holiday" holds true to political correctness because it doesn't directly infer any religious context, but yet according to Websters Dictionary, a Holiday is: a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event . So if work is suspended to commemorate and event, Christmas in this case, why then is nobody complaining about not being able to work on that day, especially if your religious beliefs do not recognize Holidays at all? One could further this argument be suggesting that government workers and civil workers such as those who work for public educational institutions should not be able to recognize Holidays that have religious context. Is that coming next? Oh wait, too late, you can't say "God" in the pledge of allegence any more. My point is that Americans are supposed to be tolerant not discrimanant.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This discussion really does shed some light on the issue. I think it's ridiculous to rename the tree.

Religious tolerance-what our country is based on-does not mean eliminating religious expression!

Any organization who'd like to put up a community menorah, or yule log, or whatever their religion dictates should also be able to do so, although I am sure they would be less tolerated by.

For the record- I am not a Christian, our family celebrates Yule. It is a very spiritual time for us. I grew up singing Christmas songs and Jewish songs for the holiday season.

10:10 AM  

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