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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

The battle over Christmas

It's time to declare a cease-fire in the war on Christmas.

That means schools should be able to have a Christmas tree and call it that. So should the city of Toledo, which this year has taken political correctness to a new level of absurdity by referring to the evergreen lit up the other night at the Docks complex as simply "the tree."

Christmas is an enduring and undeniable fixture of American tradition, both religious and sectarian. It will survive just fine if left alone by those who would try to erase the religious origins and meaning from the holiday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, with whom we often find common cause, needs to mellow out on this one and enjoy what can be - if we keep it in perspective - a particularly satisfying time of the year, regardless of your religious faith. The message of peace and love celebrated at Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is a universal one that can be - or should be - embraced by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The truth is that most Americans are Christian and they should not be asked to deny their religious faith. By the same token, this is an increasingly pluralistic society and the majority should take special care to share the goodness of the holiday and not exclude or denigrate those who profess other religions. In short, live and let live.

One aspect of Christmas that cannot be ignored is that it has become a cornerstone of our consumer way of life. Consumer spending accounts for at least two-thirds of the American economy. The heaviest shopping day of the year, typically the day after Thanksgiving, is the point at which merchants usually - or at least hopefully - begin to see a profit.

Despite complaints over the years about commercialization of this most significant religious observance, it's a fact. However, people can participate as they see fit. They aren't forced to shop until they drop.

Apropos of making money, the current cultural conniption was ginned up back in October with publication of a book by Fox News anchor John Gibson titled The War on Christmas, and subtitled "How the liberal plot to ban the sacred Christian holiday is worse than you thought."

Right-wing groups have organized legions of lawyers to monitor and prepare lawsuits on what they consider to be affronts against Christmas in school holiday celebrations, municipal decorations, and even department stores. Boycotts have been threatened or launched against national retailers that avoid saying "Merry Christmas" in their ads in favor of "Happy Holidays."

President and Mrs. Bush's White House Christmas card does not mention Christmas this year, leading one conservative commentator to gripe that Mr. Bush "claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one."

To such narrow thinking we say, "Bah, humbug." Respecting the beliefs of others is a key factor in making that system work, which means there is nothing wrong in accepting Christmas as a part of American tradition and culture, even if you don't subscribe to the religious premise.

In that spirit, we wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and, since it also begins this year on Dec. 25, a Happy Hanukkah. Please don't sue us; we mean no harm.



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