Once again this year, the battles over Christmas in U.S. public places are raging. But in one battle, the citizens have already won without being dragged into court.
Citizens of Richmond, Virginia, were joined by other people around the country to make a big enough uproar that their city listened.
The annual Richmond Christmas Parade was to be re-named The Dominion Holiday Parade. Word got out that Richmond’s volunteer parade planners felt pressured by this year’s biggest parade sponsor-an energy company called Dominion-to take the word “Christmas” out of the Christmas parade.
The parade website, called the Dominion Holiday Parade website prior to Oct. 5 (now changed back to Christmas Parade), is being “reconstructed.” As of this publication date (although the parade sponsorship’s letter currently on the home page may disappear or be re-worded), the site states that a decision was made by the city to change the name to a “holiday” parade in order to make everyone feel welcome.
It accomplished the opposite, by making Christians feel unwelcome.
When the change to “Dominion Holiday Parade” was announced, citizens immediately rallied and the news extended outside of Richmond. Thousands of e-mails and phone calls poured into Richmond’s city offices and into cities and states where Dominion offers services. According to a story at Richmond’s NBC12 (WWBT-TV), the volunteer parade committee changed the name back to “Christmas” due to this outpouring, and Dominion did not object further.
NBC12 also took a poll about this issue, still running as of Oct. 8. Results show 95 percent of respondents had a problem with the name being changed to “Holiday” parade in the first place.
What’s the big deal over Christmas?
Year after year, cases against Christmas in United States public venues reach the courts because of misinformation-that if a city or state allows a Christmas celebration, they are “establishing a religion.”
And year after year, lawyers fighting to retain religious rights in America must go to court to prove that the First Amendment says this:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
This is often argued case-by-case (see a partial list of past cases here) from circuit court to the U.S. Supreme Court, using lots of court time and defendants’ money. However, there is nothing in the First Amendment or the entire Constitution that prohibits “free exercise” from taking place in public, especially on peoples’ own time-not at their jobs, not at their schools. The Richmond parade committee comprised volunteers. Anyone who attends the parade does so voluntarily. No one is forcing them. It’s taking place on a Saturday (Dec. 4), when the majority of people don’t work.
This Richmond case shows that people can make a difference:
For people who object to “Christmas” being omitted at parade and party-time:
-Stop silently going along with the changes.
-Stop attending your employers’ parties which have now been re-named “holiday parties.”
-Send letters to legislators and organizers.
For those who object to public celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah or other joyful religious undertakings in December, perhaps the following suggestions would work:
-Stop taking the “holiday” days off that your company offers at this time of year.
-Refuse to accept gifts at this time of year.
-Refuse to accept bonuses at this time of year.
-Refuse to decorate with the rest of your neighborhood.
-Remember that if it weren’t for Christmas traditions, it’s doubtful you would be garnering those benefits or getting asked to participate.
-And remember…it’s your own rights that may be removed next.
Richmond Holiday Parade Website (with wording as of 10/8/10).
“Update: ‘Holiday’ parade changed back to include ‘Christmas’,” NCB12, 10/5/10.
NBC12 Poll as of 10/8/10 figures.
“The Establishment Clause – A Selective Guide to the Supreme Court’s Christmas Cases,” LLRX.com (Law and Technology resources for Legal Professionals), Stephen Young, 1/2/03.