35% of House Republicans Support Christian Nationalist History Revisionism
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Feb 26, 2008 at 08:48:23 PM EST
House Resolution 888 has gained 3 new co-sponsors, bringing the total, as of yesterday, to 75 -- 70 Republicans and 5 Democrats. And, as promised in a prior post, each time this legislative abomination gets more co-sponsors, I'm going to debunk another one of its lies.

In one of his resolution's 75 "Whereases," concocted to justify the "designation of the first week in May as 'American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith," Congressman and history revisionist Randy Forbes (R-VA) asserts:

Whereas in 1870, the federal government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U. S. Supreme Court as "acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for two centuries") and Thanksgiving as official holidays;

There are several extremely misleading components to this "Whereas," assembled by Mr. Forbes to make it appear that the Congress of 1870 made Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays for religious reasons. This is simply not true. The act of June 28, 1870 was passed in response to a petition from the bankers of the District of Columbia, who, for practical and legal reasons, wanted a law passed creating bank holidays for the District of Columbia that matched those of the states surrounding the district.

Contrary to what many people believe, there is no such thing as a national holiday. Congress has no authority to to designate holidays for the states. It can only designate holidays for the District of Columbia and federal institutions. The act of 1870 applied only to the District of Columbia.

An Act making the first Day of January, the twenty-fifth Day of December, the fourth Day of July, and Thanksgiving Day, Holidays, within the District of Columbia.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following days, to wit: The first Day of January, commonly called New Year's day, the fourth Day of July, the twenty-fifth Day of December, commonly called Christmas day, and any day appointed or recommended by the President of the United States as a day of public fast or thanksgiving, shall be holidays within the District of Columbia, and shall, for all purposes of presenting for payment or acceptance for the maturity and protest, and giving notice of the dishonor of bills of exchange, bank checks and promissory notes or other negotiable or commercial paper, be treated and considered as is the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and all notes, drafts, checks, or other commercial or negotiable paper falling due or maturing on either of said holidays shall be deemed as having matured on the day previous.(1)

The bankers' petition, presented in the House of Representatives on April 15, 1870, and referred to the Committee for the District of Columbia, also requested that Good Friday be among the legal holidays included in the act.(2) Obviously, if these holidays were being created for religious reasons, the committee certainly wouldn't have scrubbed Good Friday!

Now, clearly, the language of the actual act wasn't very religious. Its matter-of -fact phrase, "commonly called Christmas day," a phrase that one congressman actually moved to delete(3), is a far cry from what appears in the parentheses in Mr. Forbes's "Whereas."

(a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U. S. Supreme Court as "acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for two centuries")

So, where does Mr. Forbes's parenthetical description, none of which is at all relevant to the act of 1870, come from? Well, the part that's actually inside the quotation marks does, in fact, come from a Supreme Court case -- Lynch v. Donnelly, a nativity scene case from 1984, more than a century after the act of 1870. Chief Justice Burger's words, in his explanation of why this particular nativity scene, as part of a larger holiday display, did not violate the Establishment Clause, were, "...the inclusion of a single symbol of a particular historic religious event, as part of a celebration acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for two centuries..."

The words "a recognition of the birth of Christ" come neither from the act of 1870 nor the 1984 case. Apparently, Justice Burger's "a particular historic religious event" language just wasn't overtly Christian enough for Mr. Forbes's deceptive presentation of the act creating legal holidays for the bankers of District of Columbia, so he inserted his own words to pump it up a bit.

(1) George P. Sanger, ed., The Statutes at Large and Proclamations of the United States of America, vol. 16, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1871), 168.
(2) F. & J. Rives and George A. Bailey, eds., The Congressional Globe, 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., (City of Washington: Office of the Congressional Globe, 1870), 2737.
(3) ibid., 4529.

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