For most Californians, the arrival of December means gift shopping, family get-togethers, and good cheer. But it also reignites the ridiculous feud over the word that is the main reason for the holiday season – the word "Christmas." Last month, I sent out an e-mail invitation to my constituents in the 60th Assembly district to join me for a "Christmas" open house at the district office. I ended my invitation with a saying you may have heard before: "May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace, the joy of Christmas give you hope, the warmth of Christmas grant you love." Isn’t this the true meaning of the season?
The grinches in our community reacted as if I sent them a letter that used a four-letter word which no one should dare speak in government. My office received phone calls stating that using the word "Christmas" is a violation of the separation of church and state and that it was insulting to non-Christians. I decided to ask my constituents in an email survey whether they approved or disapproved my use of the word "Christmas." An overwhelming number emphatically stated that they not only support my use of the word but would be disappointed if I had stated anything to the contrary.
It is unfortunate that in an increasingly secular society that prides itself on tolerance feel offended by simply wishing neighbors a "Merry Christmas." Christmas is not about insults, but about the celebration of hope and renewal. Even President Obama has no problem wishing people a Merry Christmas and having a Christmas tree at the White House. The purpose of my Christmas party was to give people an opportunity to share their views with me on state issues in a casual setting. During these tough times, I think it is especially important to hold events like these to stay connected with the community while recognizing the holiday’s significance.
Of course, Christmas is about the commemoration of the birth of Christ, a history-altering milestone not just for people of the Christian faith, but for Western Civilization in general. To censor it from anything government-related would be to ignore a huge part of world history and the moral foundations that strengthen our society. When it comes to religion, the U.S. Constitution explicitly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…" In other words, government cannot establish a national church (like the English did with the Church of England) or unreasonably restrict religious activities.
Wishing someone a Merry Christmas does not force anyone to violate their own beliefs and there is nothing wrong with government recognizing this event. Some people have asked me, "Curt, how would you feel if a stranger wished you a Happy Hanukah?" My response is simple. I would say thanks for the good wishes and wish them a "Merry Christmas" in return. This is because I respect and value the individuality of each constituent I represent, whether or not they share my beliefs. One of the greatest blessings our nation offers is the freedom to believe or not believe in any religion. Although I understand why some people have taken my party invitation the wrong way, but that should not deny a part of our heritage that is shared by the vast majority of people in our nation.
During this season of goodwill, may we focus on building friendships and helping those in need instead of being upset over one word.
I wish you and your family a safe and MERRY CHRISTMAS!