Holiday Harangue: Utah Lawmaker Wants To Mandate `Merry Christmas'
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 12:56:15 PM EST
The Religious Right's annual whine-fest about the "War on Christmas" is coming along right on schedule. James Dobson has issued his list of "naughty and nice" retailers, and Donald Wildmon is doing land-office business selling in-your-face buttons and stickers criticizing anyone who fails to say "Merry Christmas" (a nice move during the season of peace).

It's all well and good to leave the carping to Religious Right leaders and blowhards like Bill O'Reilly, but I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop: input from elected officials.

Right on time, state Sen. Chris Buttars of Utah has appeared. Buttars is promoting a resolution encouraging retailers to use the phrase "Merry Christmas" instead of the more generic "Happy Holidays."

"It would encourage the use of `Merry Christmas,'" Buttars told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I'm sick of the Christmas wars - we're a Christian nation and ought to use the word."

There are a couple of points to consider here: One, it's amusing to see right-wing Republicans, who normally adopt a hands-off attitude toward regulating business, trying to force retailers to use certain terms in their ads or in-store greetings. Talk about micro-managing!

As Jim Olsen of the Utah Retail Merchants Association pointed out, Buttars' plan isn't even practical. Many stores these days are owned by national chains, he noted, and decisions about ads and language used is made at home offices, far from Utah.

Buttars would probably argue that the resolution is non-binding. That's true, so what's the point (other than giving Buttars an opportunity for more grandstanding)? If we really want to be serious about this, nothing short of a federal constitutional amendment barring anyone from uttering or printing the phrases "Seasons Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany will do.

Secondly, I must point out to Sen. Buttars that we are not a Christian nation. Our Constitution gives no preference to Christianity. That secular document, in fact, mandates the separation of church and state. (Ironically, America's first "Christian nation" advocates, the Puritans, banned Christmas celebrations. Christmas was not declared a federal holiday until 1870.)

Finally, is this really all Buttars has to do? If my legislator were wasting time on something this frivolous, I'd suggest a long vacation.

Utah Rep. Rep. David Litvack, who is Jewish, pointed this out to the Tribune. Litvack said he has no problem with people wishing him a Merry Christmas but added, "There are many more pressing issues that we've been elected to address. We're a nation of many faiths, and we as leaders should be finding ways to build common ground and respect, not entrenching one side over another."

Buttars says he's sick of the Christmas Wars. I am too. I'm especially sick and tired of the Religious Right's "Christmas Police" trying to tell the rest of us what to say and how to celebrate this month - and now actually trying to bring government pressure to bear! I never had a problem wishing anyone a "Merry Christmas," but this year I'm going out of my way to use something else instead - especially when addressing anyone who has bought into this "War on Christmas" claptrap.

So in that spirit: Happy Holidays, Sen. Buttars!




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by jdbanks on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:11:08 PM EST


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