Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 23, 2013

STUMPTALK: The meaning of Christmas

By Jim Sykes
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870. It has been celebrated as a religious holiday in America for many years and as a secular holiday in all parts of the world even longer. The Puritan forces once canceled Christmas in England and it wasn’t initially celebrated in all parts of America. Boston actually outlawed its celebration from 1659 to 1681. However, Captain John Smith of the Jamestown settlement reported that all enjoyed Christmas without incident.

Recent discussions about how we should celebrate Christmas have often turned into arguments. The main reason for the arguments seems to revolve around the religious nature of some celebrations and the objections by some against religious celebrations and symbols of any nature in public places. Why should anyone care how someone else celebrates Christmas?

You have probably been told that Christmas displays of a religious nature on public property violate the federal Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of a religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Most Americans are not aware that when this amendment was ratified in 1791, some states already had an established religion in their states and they were not required to change their state laws. The federal amendment did not apply to states and it does not say that a state cannot establish a religion; only that “Congress” shall not. Americans have accepted a Supreme Court opinion that, in my opinion, erroneously stated otherwise.

It’s a good thing that America’s form of government is not a democracy as many people declare. If it were then anyone who disagreed with the majority would either have to keep quiet or go somewhere else. That’s why we should start correctly describing our form of government as a Republic. In a Republic, the minority are permitted to exercise their individual rights and the government is not supposed to try to force them to go along with the majority even if our nation’s Supreme Court declares laws passed by Congress to be valid when those laws are clearly unconstitutional and enforcement will force the minority to comply with them. Everyone should become more familiar with our federal and state Constitutions since these documents cannot enforce themselves.

According to a recent Rasmussen Survey, more than two-thirds (67%) of Americans think that Christmas is more about Jesus Christ than about Santa Claus. That surprised me for the simple reason that more and more emphasis seems to have been placed on calling it a winter holiday lately. Even more surprising to me is that the same survey found that three-fourths (75%) of those surveyed believe that Christmas should be celebrated in public schools. If our government was actually a democracy, then all those who object to religious displays would have to participate.

Of course, to those of us who were born and raised in Tennessee, Christmas also means being with family and friends and helping others who are less fortunate. We enjoy and have come to love the beautiful surrounding that God provided here.

We recognize that Christmas is a time of giving and many of us believe that the best gift you can receive is the personal satisfaction of helping someone else enjoy his or her Christmas. We hope you will receive the best gift possible by having the opportunity to give of your time to help someone else have a better Christmas.