Secularist Scrooges

By George Neumayr

America is "not a Christian nation," said Barack Obama, speaking to Muslims abroad in his first term. The consequence of his lowest-common-denominator pluralism is that those with the least belief get the greatest say over public life.

Under this culture, the Christmas season grows more and more insipid, as evident in the "holiday card" Obama has sent out. Where George W. Bush adorned some of his cards with biblical verses -- "For the Lord is Good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations," read one of them -- Obama simply pictures his dog Bo. Donning a scarf, Bo is seen in the card trudging through the snow on the south lawn of the White House.

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The word "Christmas" has largely been expunged from federal government literature. The National Gallery, for example, offers a concert not of Christmas carols but of "holiday carols." Perhaps the word "holiday" will have to go too, as it implies that certain days are holy.

Secularists resemble Charles Dickens's Ebenezer Scrooge, who told his nephew to stop saying "Merry Christmas." Scrooge didn't simply say "Bah! Humbug!" to his nephew's greeting. Like secularists, he felt the need to lecture his nephew on the impropriety of any public displays of Christmas joy. He said to him, "What right have you to be merry?" Sounding like Bill Maher, Scrooge explained his foul mood about Christmas by saying, "What else can I be when I live in such a world of fools as this?" Scrooge wanted Christmas to be a purely private matter.

Today's Scrooges can't rest until all displays of Christmas have been scrubbed from the public square, and they seem to go from success to success, as cities, such as Santa Monica, ban nativity scenes and skittish public schools across the country punish children for singing Christmas carols or distributing Christmas cards to their friends.

Since at least the Supreme Court's Engel v. Vitale decision in 1962 (which banned prayer in public schools) and Stone v. Graham decision in 1980 (which ordered framed copies of the Ten Commandments removed from Kentucky classrooms), the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, among other secularist groups, have waged a wickedly effective campaign to remove all traces of Christianity from public life. The ACLU once arranged a scavenger hunt that offered a prize to anyone who could find a new Ten Commandments monument to target. Whether it is a cross on a remote hill or a crèche in a small city, ACLU lawyers can always be counted on to turn up and demand that these odious symbols be removed from public sight.

In those fateful decisions, the Supreme Court gave birth to an atheistic tyranny of the minority that has bedeviled America ever since. Even the dean of Harvard's law school in the 1960s, Erwin Griswold, found this jurisprudence troubling, seeing in it the beginnings of a culture of intolerance. "There are some matters which are essentially local in nature," he said, "to be worked out by the people themselves in their own communities." To those who wanted secularism federalized and enforced by the courts, he said, "In a country which has a great tradition of toleration, is it not important that minorities, who have benefited so greatly from that tolerance, should be tolerant, too?"

Sizing up Christianity as the chief obstacle to its central planning, modern liberals refuse to tolerate Christmas unless it is reduced to a generic winter event. Taking Christ out of Christmas is their goal, just as they seek to strip Christianity from Christian charities, hospitals, and schools under Obamacare's mandates. Obama's first judicial appointment, David Hamilton, who once worked for Indiana's ACLU branch, is on record saying that public officials should "refrain from using Christ's name" in public declarations, while holding that the "Arabic Allah" is permissible. No doubt Hamilton would approve of Obama's holiday card with no infant Jesus in sight.

In 1994, the Clinton White House put up a tree festooned with condoms, among other novel ornaments -- a foreshadowing of Obama's free contraceptives regime. The secularist scrooges can only tolerate Christmas if it assumes that low character. And no reform of their ways is likely.

In the end, Dickens's Scrooge reformed himself and learned "how to keep Christmas well." The same won't be said of Obama's America.

George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author (with Phyllis Schlafly) of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.

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