It’s almost Christmas, and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) isn’t going to let you forget it. In a special resolution introduced Wednesday, the congressman celebrated his idea of the reason for the season — and condemned church/state separation advocates in the process. (Lamborn introduces the resolution every year.)
“We give thanks for Jesus’ message of love and peace and remember the sacrifice He made for us all. It is a season of giving, of love, and of joy,” he said.
So far, so predictable — but Lamborn didn’t stop there.“According to a recent poll, nine out of 10 Americans celebrate Christmas,” he asserted. That’s technically an accurate claim, but it bears some more critical examination. American attitudes toward Christmas are a bit more complicated than the good congressman admits.Pew Research reported last year that one third of Americans celebrate Christmas as a cultural rather than religious holiday. That’s particularly true among young adults: Less than half attend religious services for the holiday. Overall, people of all ages overwhelmingly report looking forward to time with friends and family, rather than participating in religious reflection.
Given these facts it’s a bit odd that Lamborn singles “atheist groups” out for criticism. It’s evident that attitudes toward Christmas are undergoing a broad social shift, and it’s hardly accurate to pin the blame (if blame must indeed be pinned) on non-religious groups. But that’s exactly what he proceeded to do.“There have been many examples of atheist groups working to remove public nativity displays and other decorations,” he said.
But once again, there’s more to the story. Once a municipality elects to display one type of religious symbol, it must allow all other types of religious displays as well – failing to do so is a violation of the Constitution. Thus, as long as atheists and members of other belief traditions are free to erect their own holiday displays, there’s no trouble with the practice. If Lamborn has a problem with that, he has a problem with the Constitution.
He also expressed special irritation with the American Humanist Association (AHA), which he slammed as an “anti-religious organization” for a lawsuit they filed last year.AHA took action against a Colorado elementary school that encouraged its students to participate in Operation Christmas Child. They did so because Operation Christmas Child is an explicitly evangelistic initiative founded by the Rev. Franklin Graham. The project sends shoeboxes packed with toys, toiletries, and religious tracts to children in developing countries and the goal is conversion.As for Graham, he’s best known for being the son of evangelist Billy Graham, and for inflammatory remarks about Islam that cost him an invitation to speak at the Pentagon’s 2010 National Day of Prayer event. He also recently praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his approach to LGBT rights. Under Putin’s leadership, Russia has criminalized homosexuality and initiated a violent crackdown on LGBT activists.
Lamborn didn’t include these details in his special resolution.
He did, however, claim that “petty efforts” by groups like AHA and, presumably, Americans United. violated the Constitution’s religious liberty protections. That’s a remarkable statement from an elected official who used his public office to defend school-sponsored proselytization.
The special resolution also condemned “efforts to ban references to Christmas.” I’m not aware of any such efforts, and since Lamborn didn’t provide any specifics, it’s impossible to address this claim in greater detail.Most Americans just aren’t interested in fighting the “war on Christmas.” It’s time for the Religious Right, and Rep. Lamborn, to acknowledge that.