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Holiday cheer, dreaded J-word is near

By Cheryl K. Chumley
web posted November 22, 2004

It must be getting on that time of year again -- the time of holiday good cheer, concern for mankind the world wide and oh yes, of course, the standard public school practice of disdaining and prohibiting mention of the name Jesus.

My fourth-grade daughter almost declined to use the name Jesus in her assigned essay about what Christmas means to her because she wanted the story to be chosen for publication in the school's newsletter. During questioning, the school denied any policy barring mention of Jesus from its publication existed, and in fact, my daughter herself later admitted no one had ever warned her explicitly that her story would not be published if it included reference to Jesus. On surface then it should seem the debate is at an end. Chalk one up to a simple misunderstanding.

But there's a larger issue at stake here, one most worthy of consideration as we enter yet another holiday season: The national furor over displays of Christian symbolism and public mentions of Jesus have obviously escalated to such an extent that even a 9-year-old girl, not fully aware of the musings of daily media or battles of congressional politicians and special interest groups, nonetheless perceives enough anti-Christian sentiment in her own school to almost compromise her own personal beliefs. Congratulations surely are in order to such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; their valiant national anti-Christian efforts are apparently reaching the senses of the grade-school sect.

How can these groups, the latter of which is even headed by a man who professes to know the faith and precedes his name in all public references with the title of Reverend, achieve so much success in blanking out the majority of references to Christian theology and philosophy in the public arena -- especially when rational thought holds this very nation to be founded on these Judeo-Christian principles?

It's baffling and mind-boggling that the portion of the First Amendment pertaining to religious freedom, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," can be so easily skewed as to render it common practice for schools and public entities to prohibit the likes of reading a bible, wearing a t-shirt with Jesus' name, praying to oneself quietly amidst a crowd, wearing a cross on a necklace, and so forth. How do these above listed personal choices meet the criteria necessary to prove First Amendment violation -- that they are congressionally passed laws?

They don't, according to the simple words of the First Amendment. But the fact is that many in this country have bought into one of the most twisted of constitutional interpretations ever to be thrust upon our society, that of the separation of church and state clause, which is not even a phrase contained within the document itself but rather an atheistic and radically liberal explanation of a portion of one founding father, Thomas Jefferson, letter to a Connecticut church.

Much has been argued about this "wall of separation between church and state" Jefferson supported in 1801, with both sides of the religious and cultural divide trying to decipher, via contextual analysis and historical writings, what was actually in the heart of this third American president when he wrote these words. But better for America would be to keep things simple.

Better would be to read the constitutional amendment itself and recognize, loudly when necessary, that the law of our land regarding religion has nothing to do with limiting the rights of the people to practice, worship or speak as they see fit. In other words, don't be afraid to tell these anti-religion zealots circling Capitol Hill and seeking to spread their anti-Christian discourse throughout the nation, from communities through courts, that they're wrong.

After all, if a 9-year-old can do it -- can maintain her principles in the face of pressure from authorities unknown -- then it seems that those of older generations with even greater time on earth to solidify their faiths can accomplish the same.

Cheryl K. Chumley is a freelance columnist who may be reached at ckchumley@aol.com.

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