Each year, many liberals and secularists deny that there is any effort by anyone to censor Christmas. They claim that “Religious Right” leaders diabolically promote a phoney “War on Christmas” in order to bamboozle ignorant and gullible Christians into donating money for their efforts to thwart this allegedly nonexistent threat.
I find this surprising because I have worked on actual cases in which some government entity has demanded censorship of religious Christmas carols, or removal of Christmas art created by students, etc., Somebody is bringing those lawsuits to remove the nativity scenes from government buildings, etc. When I read someone claiming there is no effort to censor Christmas, I feel like Neil Armstrong reading someone claim that the government faked the Moon landings. It would be very difficult to convince people that “Christmas censorship” occurs unless they themselves had personally experienced it. I have explained at length why that view is factually wrong and conceptually flawed here.
Yet, these secularists, these “Holly-Claus deniers,” continue to assert that no one is censoring Christmas. So, as a public service to them and others, I offer the details of the situation at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, North Carolina. This situation was favorably resolved quickly, but still shows unnecessary censorship of Christmas. University officials there altered the advertisements of a campus student group selling Christmas trees for a fundraiser, so that the ad called them ”holiday trees.” When students asked why school officials changed the ads, one official said that ”we cannot market your trees in association solely with a Christian event.” Here is one of the ads referring to the trees as “holiday trees.” After ADF attorney Matt Sharp wrote them a letter, explaining that the Constitution does not require such censorship, the community college relented, and allowed the student group to call what they were selling, “Christmas trees,” as of November 27. Western Piedmont Community College did the right thing.
The Constitution does not require government officials to silence private speakers from using religious terminology. There is no government endorsement of religion when it allows a private student group to sell “Christmas trees,” rather than “holiday trees.” The school officials corrected their error, and that is good news. What is sad is that so much incorrect understanding of what the Establishment Clause requires abounds in the minds of many government officials. Here is one piece of constitutional law that most people agree on: the Constitution protects private expression containing religion, and the government does not endorse private religious expression merely by allowing it to occur. Merry Christmas.
This post originally appeared here.