The hot, humid days of late July are apparently not too early to spout bogus “War on Christmas” rhetoric. And President Donald J. Trump settled on an unusual venue to kick things off: a Boy Scout Jamboree.
You’ve probably read about Trump’s bizarre speech; social media has been aflame over it. Addressing a crowd of approximately 40,000 Scouts and leaders on Monday in West Virginia, Trump careened wildly, offering a mélange that was part partisan screed and part, well, you tell me. (The yacht story is still freaking people out.) The rant was completely inappropriate, given the Scouts’ young age and the religious diversity of the organization.
One of the things Trump touted was the myth that under his watch, the phrase “Merry Christmas” has been saved. (Most presidents who address the Scouts talk about American values and how much fun hiking is. Trump decided to hone in on a Religious Right pet issue.)
“In the Scout Oath, you pledge on your honor to do your best and to do your duty to God and your country,” he said. “And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, folks.”
As I have noted before, the “War on Christmas” is really just a lot of carping from zealots who like to complain about how oppressed they are because some people prefer to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” To the Religious Right, any attempt to be inclusive means you’re trying to secularize Christmas, which is, as any reasonable person would observe, is not true.
Trump’s comments were extremely inappropriate for a nonpartisan youth event. Although Boy Scouts are supposed to be “reverent,” and belief in God is required for membership, the Scouts are not a Christian organization. I’m sure some were offended by Trump’s exclusive stance on holiday greetings.
Despite what Trump says, the 'War on Christmas' doesn't exist.
More to the point, Trump’s declaration doesn’t change the fact that no government official has the power to enforce a specific way to celebrate Christmas – or whether people celebrate it at all. Americans can say “Merry Christmas” or not – it’s up to them.
In fact, polls show that most Americans agree with us that the “War on Christmas” is non-existent and don’t identify with Trump’s attempts to validate the fake hysteria. A 2016 Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll revealed that 46 percent of Americans “don’t care” about this holiday greetings debate, while 45 percent prefer to say “Merry Christmas” but don’t care enough to be offended. Only 13 percent of the people polled said they get offended by “Happy Holidays”; 80 percent of Americans are not offended by either holiday greeting.
Despite the lack of public support, Trump has been pushing his “Merry Christmas” line early this year. Appearing on TV preacher Pat Robertson’s “The 700 Club” on July 13, Trump said, “We have to bring our country back,” adding that a part of his plan for that was to bring “back” a phrase that was never banned in the first place.
“Our country was going in the wrong direction. You couldn’t build. You couldn’t do anything. Our country was going in the wrong direction,” Trump told Robertson. “What they were doing to religious liberty – they were destroying religious liberty. You will be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again very soon.”
This issue is no minor point. The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on religious freedom – his Muslim ban, the drive to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment that bars church-based partisan politicking, schemes to use religion as an excuse to limit women’s healthcare, his assault on public education and advocacy of vouchers, etc. – show a mindset that is disturbingly oriented toward force and compulsion in matter of religion.
That’s a lousy gift – at any time of year.