More on the Merry Christmas bill

I got email today from a reporter for “The Christian Post.” He wanted to ask me some questions about my opinions expressed yesterday on Raw Story. I am not familiar with this reporter’s writing, but thought it might be a bad idea to go into a phone conversation cold. So I wrote a message to him first, and I’m reproducing it here for discussion.

When I talked to the Raw Story correspondent yesterday it was a little off the cuff —  we were kidding around a bit, and I wasn’t sure how he was going to quote me, but he obviously wanted a hostile reaction for the readers to play with. I hadn’t read the bill in detail, but I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight before I got back to you. So I’m writing this message so that I don’t have to remember everything over the phone.

My main reaction was based on the fact that the law — to the extent that it is Constitutional — appears to be unnecessary and frivolous posturing, which accomplishes nothing more than to repeat rights that are already granted and only wasting the legislatures time. Some aspects of it may turn out to be unconstitutional, but as I am not a lawyer, I can’t comment authoritatively on that.

I looked up the ACLU’s position on nativity scenes. There was a case in 1989, County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a nativity scene was not allowed on public land when it clearly has the primary purpose of advancing a religion, as expressed in the very well known Lemon v. Kurtzman (source of “the Lemon test”). The fact that a menorah was also included wound up making the decision “complex and fragmented” as Wikipedia described it. However, the court ruled that the presence of alternate holiday symbols did not make the openly religious imagery constitutional. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Blackmun stated that “government may celebrate Christmas in some manner and form, but not in a way that endorses Christian doctrine.” Then despite the presence of competing religious symbols, he wrote “The display of the creche in this context, therefore, must be permanently enjoined.”

The ACLU wrote a position paper about holiday displays, with which I heartily agree:

“The constitutional rights of people to worship, preach, sing carols, and celebrate Christmas in their churches and with their families and friends — whether in public or in private — is well-protected. The ACLU itself has advocated on behalf of people who want to celebrate Christmas. The real question is not whether people can celebrate Christmas (they most certainly can), but whether the government should be promoting religious beliefs and practices (it most certainly shouldn’t).”

The text of the Texas bill states that

“…a school district may display… a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of (1)  more than one religion; or (2)  one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.”

As I understand Alleghany v ACLU, this provision could run contrary to the USCS. However, the law then goes on to clarify that “A display relating to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.” Which is fine, unless teachers are being encouraged to do exactly that in a nativity scene.
In short, either the Texas Legislature is wasting their time by reiterating rights that people already have, or they are encouraging schools to run afoul of what the USCS has ruled. Either way it is pointless.
The bill also mentions the right of teachers to say “Merry Christmas.” I may have been a little impolitic yesterday in describing this as “bullshit.” The fact remains, however, that suing people for saying Merry Christmas is an imaginary threat. As far as I can tell, the ACLU has never done such a thing, and has no intention of ever doing such a thing.
As far as I can tell, despite the correspondence above, and some time chatting about the issues, it looks like the author has not quoted me in any context other than to take pull quotes directly from the previous Raw Story article.


  1. Lord Narf says

    In short, either the Texas Legislature is wasting their time by reiterating rights that people already have, or they are encouraging schools to run of what the USCS has ruled.

    Run afoul of what the USCS has ruled? Looks like you’re missing a word in there or need a little restructuring. Am I just reading it wrong?

  2. lurker in a strange land says

    Here is my parody take on how this would be quote mined.

    “As far as I can tell’, Mr. Glasser writes, “suing people for saying Merry Christmas is an imaginary threat.” Well Mr. Glasser thinks God is imaginary too and he’s wrong on both counts. /parody

  3. says

    Hysterical much? No one has or will sue for saying Merry Christmas. The right often ridicules the left for being over zealous iditots and yet they engage in this kind of lunacy all the time, which only serves to further divide us unnecessarily. As an Atheis,t I have never had one bit of issue with someone saying Merry Christmas in the rigth spirit. However, some say it with nasty attitudes as a way to thumb their nose at others which is NOT what the spirit of Chrstmse is supposed to be about. How loving is it to say something KNOWING it will offend? Yessuh, Christians are some wonderful folks I tell yah. Besides, are they going to pass laws protecting Atheistic freedom of speech? Doubt it. Always screaming about legislating morality and the Christian right does it all the time. Hypocrites All.

  4. changerofbits says

    The Christian Post seems to be parroting right wing talking points, enabling young earth creationism and seems to at least passively approve of anti-gay hate. Of the articles I can bear to read, they don’t seem to quote the opposition with intentional dishonesty, even if the article is constructed to support the Christian position.

    Also, from #8 in their statement of faith:

    The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment.

    Maybe you could ask the reporter why they work for an organization that thinks you deserve to be tortured for eternity?

  5. changerofbits says

    Sure, then the next question is: “Why does your God need to hold the gun of hell to my head, demanding that I believe?”

  6. says

    I hear yeah, but then you are talking to people who can actually argue that belief in gravity demands faith–ROFLMAO. Even when I was a theist I understood the laws of gravity…In other words, be sure to have some alka seltzer and pain pills handy after the convo.

  7. says

    I mean, there is something really weird happening with this new brand of christians. They are meaner and far more political in this new age. Christ told them to be in the world but not of it and yet here they are all up in secular politics and to trying to strong arm belief systems as opposed to allowing others to get to know god willingly. I think what we are witnessing is the bombastic swan song of a system that is finally on its way out. They can’t stand it so they are grasping at straws and trying to martyr themselves.

  8. Russell Glasser says

    Probably because I don’t feel that it would be constructive to lash out at a person simply looking for my opinion on an unrelated matter. He maybe misrepresent me when he writes the story, but will getting angry about hell make that more likely or less?

  9. says

    Nothing penetrates the bubble.

    A few years ago I heard someone read from a news story from USA Today. the gist of the story is that stores carry more secular than religious Christmas kitschy crapola (my term) because the people who spend the most money on Christmas decorations and presents are generally not very religious, whereas the people for whom Christmas is a religious holiday buy a few decorations and reuse them year after year and don’t go overboard buying presents. In other words, the stores have done their market research and the people they can make the most money from want Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and not so much baby Jesus. It has nothing to do with the beliefs of the store owners or employers. It’s about giving people what they want to buy so they can make money. The point was missed by the person reading it and most of the people in the room who continued to view that as a conspiracy to take Jesus out of the Christmas holiday. I tried to have a rational discussion but it didn’t take me long to realize that it was pointless. (The same folks are mad that stores can be open on Sunday, even though they GO to those stores on Sunday. They want them closed because if they are open, they can’t help but go shopping on Sunday. If that makes sense to you, explain it to me.) The point is that these people want the government to impose what they claim to believe on everyone. They have no patience for any other point of view other than their own. I am quite certain that they have never wished a Jewish coworker Happy Hanukah or Happy New Year (at Rosh Hashanah) or made any other attempt to acknowledge anyone else’s beliefs or customs. (If nothing else, some people’s customs are fun and also include tasty treats!) No, they get bent out of shape if everyone doesn’t pretend to be like them. I’ve also heard two of these people use the N word just so you know what we’re dealing with. Unfortunately they are friends of my parents and sometimes avoiding them is difficult during the holidays. Fortunately they are all old and I think a lot of the younger people are less close minded. Not all of them, but more and more as they are younger and younger. That will help over time I think.

  10. says

    Well, it’s like they say–a couple of generations will have to die off before the insanity we see today dies off as well.

  11. EnlightenmentLiberal - formerly codemonkey says

    Also try: Why doesn’t god save me from hell when I ask in hell? No second chances? No chance of repentance after a “point of no return”? That’s not very christian, now is it?

  12. says

    I know the answer to that one, “Well, you had your chance while you were alive! Once you die you have to “live” as it were, with the choices we made on earth — for EVAHHHHHHH *echoes out*

  13. EnlightenmentLiberal - formerly codemonkey says

    Perhaps. I think that’s the most evil point in the whole system, so if you’re going to bring anything up IMHO, I’d bring that up.

  14. Lord Narf says

    Well, that was up until some bright boy realized what an untapped political force they were. A mass of proudly sheep-like people who will vote based upon a single issue, no matter how much other stuff you pile up that is bad for them. A few words in the ears of (and a few hundred thousand dollars in the collection plates of) some major televangelists and megachurch pastors, and suddenly Jesus wants us to make this a Christian nation.

  15. says

    Pre-supposing what Christ REALLY wants even though he has said otherwise throught the new Testament? Humph. And they call US arrogant.

  16. Raymond says

    On the contrary, I find that very christian. Or very religious anyway. Don’t most monotheistic religions act like this?

  17. EnlightenmentLiberal - formerly codemonkey says

    It was slight sarcasm, and an attempt to point out possibly hypocrisy. Sure, the christian god will forgive if you ask, no matter what – except when you die, and then all the forgiveness goes right out the window. Convenient, isn’t it?

  18. Raymond says

    I don’t know why most people get all worked up anyway. Didn’t yahweh just promise to save his people? He clearly didn’t care about the vast majority of the people in the world, only his chosen few. So do American christians have some way to determine if they are descended from the “right” people?

  19. Raymond says

    It’s been too long since I read the bible. Does the new testament say that explicitly? That everyone is now part of his “flock?”

  20. Raymond says

    I can see Yahweh now. “Those gentile bitches think they can get away with not worshiping me? Well take this . . .” enter Jesus and the new scripture. Yahweh roflmao “Gotcha bitches.”

  21. says

    I know Paul alludes to it in a few of his teachings, giving special instructions for Jews and Gentiles (as in who should keep the laws, who were absolved from the laws). I recall one story of Jesus telling a woman who wanted to be healed that she was a dog, meaning, she was not Jewish. When she replies that even dogs can eat the scraps from the master’s table, he rewarded her humility by healing her and hinting around that folks like her can be saved.

  22. says

    Ahahahahaha, Raymond you be crazy, but that scene so fits. Man, we need to gather together a little troupe and do parody Sketches–Python style yet, you know, American like and shizznit.

  23. changerofbits says

    Yea, my intent was rhetorical rather than actual advice on dealing with the reporter. I was just a bit taken aback by finding that on the about page, but I guess it fits right in there with the rest of the site’s content.

  24. Lord Narf says

    Well, they’re getting their ad hits off of the template.

    Wait …
    It took the headline for you to realize that you were going to be unimpressed with the article? You mean you were expecting fair, unbiased reporting from the Christian Post, at some point? 😀

  25. Russell Glasser says

    Ah, the text of the post is up now and… as far as I can tell, he took nothing from me at all except pull quotes from the Raw Story article. I sent him the text of the message above, and we had what seemed like a reasonable chat about the issue, but none of that appears in the story. The “atheist protest” in the headline is not accurate, as my main concern was that the bill is mostly irrelevant and a waste of time.

  26. Lord Narf says

    Oh well. I wish I could say that I’m surprised, and I expect better of them. But I’m not, and I don’t.

  27. Lord Narf says

    Say, anyone else getting ads for the movie, 23rd Psalm: Redemption, on this article? Very weird. I wonder what that’s all about … the ad being here, I mean, not the plot of the movie.

  28. changerofbits says

    Well, they need to play the victim card for their readers, because it isn’t enough to use their overwhelming majority that allows them to pass nonsense legislation.

  29. changerofbits says

    a school district may display… a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of (1) more than one religion; or (2) one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol

    I think somebody should take advantage of the law by setting up a display at a public school that depicts one of the following:

    1. A standard nativity scene, with one added character: Muhammad, standing behind Mary, with a sword raised in mid-swing aimed at Mary’s neck. This meets the “more than one religion” requirement. Also, the sword is a good secular symbol of the 2nd Amendment.

    2. A standard nativity scene, with two of wise men in a passionate, loving, kissing embrace. You could also depict an Abrahamic type of marriage equality by having all three wise men joining in the same pose, but that might be a bit over the top. This would meet the secular scene requirement.

    3. A Christmas tree, with a crescent moon and star on top and decorated with ornaments of the various religious symbols. You can cover a bunch of religions with this one.

    4. A Christmas tree, leaning to one side a bit with red lights arranged such that it looks like the atheist scarlet “A” symbol.

  30. says

    And I love the “in spite of Atheist protest” part. Substitute Atheist for Feminist and you know what they are going for. Poor, downtrodden Christains, we just get our way all the time, bullies that we are! Way to stand up to THE MAN Rick Perry. Fight the pwer! Fight the power ! *LOL to sad sigh* Misanthropy starts to look better and better every year.

  31. says

    You surprised? I knew they were going to make it appear as if we just hate Christmas and we desire to get in the face of folks who say the word. That our protest has to do with not wishing to have our right to sue taken away (which is somewhat alluded to even in the title). I saw that shit coming a mile away–fucking bastards. If I were you, I would call him out publically on his shit. Don’t let these so called wonderful Christains get away with blatantly lying by omission. It will only serve to paint us as black hearted Madeline O style grinches–which is what they want. Villfy us and they stop our momentum..

  32. Russell Glasser says

    I did leave a comment at the story, which you are free to vote up. 🙂

  33. says

    Did it–and I rolled up both sleeves on that one! I hate bullying via passive aggressive martyr–izing…lol

  34. changerofbits says


    Nice, the moderator equates present giving and Baby Jesus. That tekuma character is something special. I checked out his profile page and found this little gem of a memo:

    gzuzluvzu 10:47 PM on April 19, 2013
    thank you for your continued efforts to defend gods word – even when the facts are against you! dont give up!

    You wouldn’t want facts to get in the way of your crusade, after all, WWGWBD?

  35. unfamiliar w/ your ways says

    noticed that. just like sometimes Christian Mingle ads happen on PZ’s Pharyngula, I imagine this all counts as “religious” content to the advertising algorithms. kinda ironic, clearly a misapplication of their advertising software, you’d think they could count clicks and see that there’s something not working…

  36. Lord Narf says

    I just wasn’t sure if it was targeted at me, because of my browsing history, or if the blog post specifically triggered it somehow, with some of the verbiage on here. I’m on a lot of Christian sites, reading a lot of their nonsense, so my ads tend to be a little motley.

  37. Akira MacKenzie says

    If that were only true. However, I’m finding that bigotry and willful ignorance are passed down from one generation to the next like priceless heirlooms. Even many of my outspokenly “liberal” friends I knew back in high school eventually became conservatives by the time they were 30. My younger sister, who was standing up for race and gender issues as well as national health care in college in her college days, now gripes about her noncaucasian patients and claims that she only got into nursing so she could make $70K a year.

    They all settled down. They all got good paying jobs and bought property. Worst of all, they had fucking kids! To protect all that, they buy into the status quo of a nation built upon racism, sexism, homophobia, theism, capitalism, and mindless violence. They do it because it’s the only way they can obtain the approval from the older social and economic gatekeppers that will allow them access to the precious “American Dream.” Once you achieved it, there comes the whispered threat that the “enemy” is going to take it all away; do-Goodyear politicians are going to tax your hard-earned money away and give it to lazy darkies who are going to use it to buy drugs, or move into your neighborhood, homosexuals are coming to molest and recruit your children; atheists are trying to make your religion illegal; etc.. You don’t have the time or the reasearch skills to determine if any of this is actually true, but it sounds a lot like what Ma and Pa, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Jane and Uncle Joe used to say around the dinner table. The cycle goes on.

    It’s going to take a lot more than the last two generations of bigoted old farts to croak before we can expect any meaningful change.

  38. Matrim says

    Also, the sword is a good secular symbol of the 2nd Amendment.

    As a complete aside, why is it none of these people with a serious hard-on for the 2nd Amendment ever complain about laws regarding bladed weaponry? I’m sure someone, somewhere has, but I never hear about it. I’m pretty sure just about every state has laws prohibiting more bladed weapons from being carried (or in many case even owned). Hell, most of the carry permits I’ve seen specifically mention things like swords, long knives, and axes as being illegal in the relevant entries in the state code. A swords is WAY less dangerous than a gun, and way more awesome to whip out in a self-defense situation. Plus, who is going to accost the person carrying a gorram axe?

    Sorry, back on topic. Yeah, newspapers, especially small ones, often are lazy about their quotes. I’ve been “quoted” about a half-dozen times in my life by a newspaper, I think I was quoted correctly and in context once.

  39. Raymond says

    That is all correct, but you even said it in your explanation “They do it because it’s the only way they can obtain the approval from the older social and economic gatekeppers that will allow them access to the precious ‘American Dream.’” I don’t think it will be a quick process, but when those old gatekeepers die off, a few more people will be free from their influence. And then during the next generation fewer people will be achieving the “American Dream” and thus won’t be impacted by the gatekeepers. I tend to believe that it will take a few generations to get to the point where the majority don’t even believe in the “American Dream” anymore and cannot be influenced by the gatekeepers anymore. Some, who I have talked to about this, believe it will happen sooner.

    Remember, the world will remain dishonest and bigoted like it is until people fight to make it better. You just have to ask yourself if you are willing to fight for a change you may never witness. For me, the answer is yes.
    For my disbelief in god, my friends left me and my family disowned me. I was fired from my job and evicted from my apartment. I lived on the street for a little over a year, watching people just like me die from starvation and the cold. I was refused entry into a homeless shelter because I refused to go to their church. Every week I walk by a memorial to the people, just in my town, who have died for want of warmth and food, and my anger grows. Why was help denied these people?

    I went to Afghanistan and watched my friends being blown-up in a rocket attack. I saw civilians planting IED’s. I saw a 10 year-old boy charge at me with a bomb strapped to his chest. I was attacked in hand-to-hand combat with someone who wanted to kill me. I am thankful that most people will never have to look into the eyes of someone who really wants them dead. It’s chilling.

    But I was one of the lucky ones. I somehow made it through all that, and managed to start to make something happen in my life. I fight, not for myself, but to ensure that a world comes to pass where all the tragedy I’ve seen in my life, won’t have to be seen by others. A place where the gatekeepers on capitol hill will realize what they’ve done to this country with their greed and bigotry. A place where fairy tales don’t dictate the actions of billions of people around the world. A place where talent and intelligence aren’t squandered because of lack foresight by those in charge. A place where people are allowed to become contributing members of society even if they are poor. And mostly I fight for a place where we can face the real challenges humanity will have to overcome as one.

    Sorry about that. I kinda get worked up about this stuff. Anyway, my point is that if you refuse to fight simply because you aren’t sure you’ll succeed, then you are right. Nothing will change.

  40. Lord Narf says

    Sword manufacturers don’t have a national lobby that they can purchase out from under the enthusiasts who started it.

  41. says

    I hear yah and I concur. Not sure why the shift happens; altered socioeconomic factors shouldn’t change fundamental outlooks. I was dirt poor , but today, now I am making good money and living comfrotably. Yet, I still hold on to my base humanistic outlooks from my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I am a self preservationist in many ways, but I don’t think survival necessarily has to come at the expense of OTHER, in fact, I think helping OTHER to build up only strengthens my own foundation. Maybe this is the answer…if we can see that there are no real threats to what we have amassed and/or achieved, we can do away with the automatic prejudices that come with such fears?

  42. says

    Hear bloody hear mah man. I can tell you that we treat our vets like crap for all the convenient flag waving that happens during electionss. My dad fought for freedoms only to be told to sit in the back of the bus when he got home. When he came out as gay–oh mah goodness!!! Humanity has a loooong way to go, but I do hope that you, me and the other humanists in the thread and beyond–keep being the minority voice of reason and fairness and teach out kids to do the same…that is how modern revolutions are won.

    Also–thank you for your service *bows*

  43. Seeker says

    You’re absolutely right that some say it with nasty attitudes and nose-thumbing. A typical exchange in my neck of the woods often runs something like this:

    Me: “Hey, yeah, same to you.”
    Person: “It’s MERRY CHRISTMAS! Say CHRISTMAS! They’re trying to make Christmas illegal! Jesus is the reason for the season. I’m being PERSECUTED!!!!!!”

  44. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Well, strictly speaking, if there’s a celebratory tree in the diorama then Paganism is covered!

  45. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Personally I think that a reinforced glass dildo would work pretty well*. “Behold the mighty transparent penis of justice”, or something like that.

    * A friend works in an adult store, and one of these is their baseball-bat-under-the-counter if things go wrong. Mainly due to UK weapons laws, but also for humiliation purposes.

  46. Matrim says

    I carry a giant pyrex butt-plug in my car. Not to beat people with, just threatening to use it for its intended purpose is frightening enough.

  47. changerofbits says

    Be careful what you wish for, that dude in the jacked up 3/4 ton with road rage may turn from antagonist to admirer upon sight of your arsenal.

  48. Christopher Lowe says

    I’m an atheist. I like Christmas. I like eggnog. I guess there’ll be no xmas or eggnog for me where I’m going!