Monday, December 18, 2006
  Christmas Tree Controversy, once again
It seems like at least once each winter holiday season there has to be a controversy over a Christmas tree somewhere. This year it's in Seattle, where a Jewish group had asked for a menorah to be added to the holiday display of 14 Christmas trees in the airport. The airport authorities didn't feel they could accommodate the menorah and the potential requests from other religions to include their symbols at a time of year when airports are notoriously busy, so they took down the trees. Which, of course, has resulted in a huge outcry.

Personally, I don't have much problem with Christmas trees in airports. But at the same time, I don't think people should object to an airport deciding to go treeless. I mean, it's not like we aren't bombarded with Christmas from all sides -- every store playing slushy carols, Santas on street corners holding sale placards, malls decorated to the hilt, office holiday parties, entire radio stations devoted to nothing but Christmas music, not to mention the barrage of Christmas specials and Christmas ads on tv. One airport without trees really isn't going to spoil the spirit of the season!

And, in an atmosphere already heavily saturated with Christmas cheer, it would behoove us to consider the implications of government institutions participating in the Christmas panoply. I believe that Christmas displays in public schools, courtrooms, and other government properties probably violates the spirit of the first amendment which prohibits the government from the establishment any given religion. By catering to and participating in the holidays of one religion over others, or even of a handful of religions over others, the government is by default promoting those religions.

Since the estimates are that some 30,000 faiths exist in today's world, it is impractical to be inclusive of all religions. Clearly, it is better for the government to steer clear of recognizing (and thereby privileging) any single religion.

Further, as a white woman, I am very conscious in the way race intersects with normative understandings of what it means to be American. Religion intersects in many of the same ways. When American is white, Anglo-Saxon protestant, then black, brown, yellow, Jewish, Muslim, native spiritualist, Hindu, Sikh, Bahai, Wiccan, Shinto, Woo Doo, Buddhist, Jain, etc, etc, etc end up being "the other." And more often than not a marginalized other, whose identity is neither recognized nor valued as being fully American.

In recent years we've seen a surge in religious sensitivity. But putting up a tree, a menorah, and a star and crescent really isn't much better that just putting up the tree. It maintains a hegemony of Abrahamic religions over other faiths. Even if the circle is expanded to include Kwanza and Divali, there is a hegemony of large faith groups over smaller faith groups, some of which have substantial numbers of American born adherents. It privileges all faith groups over atheists who have no symbols that could be placed alongside the tree.

All in all, it's far better for the government to stay out of the religious celebration business.
I am 100% in agreement with you. personally i find white middle-class christian people waxing shrill about how their rights are being impinged upon because their kid's public school calls it a "winter concert" instead of a "christmas concert" a little much. and i'm white, middle-class and was raised christian (atheist now, natch).

it's weird, sad and funny when priveleged people don't get the difference between inconvenience and oppression, and cry "reverse discrimination".
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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