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Published: Monday, 12/25/2000

In the `Nick' of time

Deck the halls with copies of a ruling by a panel of federal appeals judges in Cincinnati - Christmas has survived another trip to court. A Grinch-like lawyer sought to cancel Dec. 25 as a legal holiday on the grounds that its long association with a birth in Bethlehem was too religious. Fortunately, three wise men on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.

Attorney Richard Ganulin echoed the usual refrain of the American Civil Liberties Union that separation of church and state had been abridged by the government unlawfully endorsing what was essentially a religious holiday. The lawyer, who said he is Jewish and does not celebrate the birth of Christ or the arrival of the man from the North Pole, further claimed the government's endorsement of Christmas was harmful to his self esteem.

Mr. Ganulin argued that he and other nonbelievers were made to feel like outsiders in the midst of holiday merrymaking blessed by Uncle Sam. The official sanction of the Christmas holiday not only violated the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion, the counselor added, but also his rights to equal protection of law and freedom of association.

The appellate court was unsympathetic to the lawyer who would steal Christmas, and unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling against Mr. Ganulin. The court agreed the plaintiff failed to prove Congress acted illegally in 1870 when it established Christmas as a holiday along with New Year's Day and Thanksgiving.

Moreover, the astute jurists challenged Mr. Ganulin's assertion that the Christmas holiday could be harmful to nonbelievers, supporting the government's position that the courts have repeatedly recognized the many secular aspects of the holiday.

The determined Mr. Ganulin plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court's decision. But for now, Christmas is safe for another year and, as celebrators say, just in the “Nick” of time.

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