Thursday, December 22, 2005

Legal, Illegal, and Grinch-like

I was on the board of the Riverside Plaza Tenants Association when I was in law school. Most people in Minneapolis are familiar with the Riverside Plaza high-rise apartments near the University of Minnesota West Bank Campus.

As minority shareholders in the complex, we had a small budget that was sufficient to hire a staffer and to hold some events. One of the proposed events was a Christmas party. Ann, a U of M graduate student and fellow board member, offered that we could not hold a Christmas party because it was "illegal."

Just to clarify the law, the government may not establish religion, nor may it prohibit the free exercise of religion. Permitting a non-profit corporation to hold a Christmas party would not violate the Establishment Clause. Indeed, prohibiting religious celebrations by private entities would clearly violate the Free Exercise Clause.

I thought of this allegedly criminal Christmas party when reading this piece by Rosa Brooks, a law professor at the University of Virginia. Brooks uses a parody of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas to launch a counterattack in the War on Christmas.

Brooks asserts a number of (often contradictory) points:
  • There is no War on Christmas; it is all made up by Fox News and Bill O'Reilly to score ratings points
  • The motivation behind those reporting the War on Christmas is latent anti-Semitism (wait, I thought it was about ratings!)
  • Efforts to say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" are due to tolerance and the law (wait, I thought it was all made up!)
  • The focus on private retailers saying "Happy Holidays" is a First Amendment Establishment Clause issue
  • Those who choose to preserve the expression "Merry Christmas" among private individuals are acting like the Grinch
  • Those who seek include Christian symbols in public parades and displays, where local governments have promoted a variety of secular and religious symbols, are acting like the Grinch



Blogger Cyborg2000 said...

The often silly, but more times scary, lack of tolerance on the left is backfiring. I've heard more people purposefully saying "Merry Christmas" this year than ever before.

December 22, 2005 7:44 PM  
Blogger Cyborg2000 said...

01001101 01100101 01110010 01110010 01111001 00100000 01000011 01101000 01110010 01101001 01110011 01110100 01101101 01100001 01110011

Merry Christmas in the universal language of all Cyborgs...binary!

December 22, 2005 8:10 PM  
Blogger Derek Jensen said...

I've heard this story as long ago as 1994, so I know it is true

December 23, 2005 2:35 PM  

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