Merry Christmas, everybody!
Yes, I realize it's March and it's completely inappropriate and unseasonal to wish someone "Merry Christmas" nine months in advance, but understand this -- I'm not wishing you a Merry Christmas because I should, I'm doing it because I can!
I live in the state of Tennessee, and last week, by an overwhelming vote of 83-4, the Tennessee House approved a bill that gives all Tennesseans the legal right to say "Merry Christmas" to whomever they want, whenever they want.
Take that, Festivus!
The bill, technically known as SB 1425 but more commonly referred to as the Merry Christmas bill, breezed through the Tennessee Senate last month on a unanimous 30-0 vote.
I know what you're thinking -- don't we already have the legal right to say "Merry Christmas" in Tennessee? Haven't people been saying "Merry Christmas" for years, without any legal assistance from the government? The answer, of course, is yes. But don't let that get in the way of a good piece of legislation that is a total waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
Stacey Campfield, the State Senator from Knoxville who sponsored SB 1425, said the bill is necessary to prevent "silly lawsuits" that discourage people from greeting each other with "traditional" holiday greetings. When asked if he could name such a lawsuit, Campfield said he wasn't aware of any specific cases. Instead, he said the ACLU is "always freaking out about that stuff."
Oddly, Hedy Weinberg, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee -- the group that's always "freaking out" about this stuff -- says she has no idea what Sen. Campfield is talking about. Weinberg told the Knoxville News-Sentinel that not only is she not freaking out about Christmas, she can't recall a single legal action that would even trigger her concern.
"Sen. Campfield is envisioning a problem that does not exist," Weinberg said. "Legislators should not be filing legislation just to be wasting paper."
The Merry Christmas bill, of course, is just that -- a waste of paper, a waste of time and tax dollars, and a waste of legislative effort. Campfield himself admits he isn't aware of any specific lawsuits regarding the words "Merry Christmas." But he says he's heard of people who are "afraid of lawsuits," so he filed his bill to address their concerns.
Texas passed a similar law in 2013, and at least eight other states have "Merry Christmas" bills pending. One of those states is Indiana, where State Sen. Jim Smith can recall only a single instance where someone attempted to crack down on Christmas. Nonetheless, he says Christmas is "under attack," and he believes state legislators like himself need to stand up and address the problem.
"That's just crazy that we even have to move a bill like that, but I think it's very well needed in every state," Smith said.
He's right about one thing -- it is crazy to move a bill when the problem the bill addresses doesn't even exist. All these state legislators need to do is look at what's happening in other countries, and they'll quickly realize that Christmas is not under attack in the United States, and neither is religious freedom.
In Nigeria, Muslims attacked three Christian villages this weekend, killing more than 100 people. Last year in Egypt, no fewer than fifty Christian churches were attacked by Muslim extremists. In Nepal, a Christian church was burned to the ground by Hindu extremists. In Sri Lanka, eight Buddhist monks were arrested and charged with attacking two Christian churches.
This, literally, is what it means to be "under attack."
Other religions are under attack, too. Last month, police in Bulgaria arrested more than 120 people after hundreds of soccer hooligans and ultra-nationalists attacked a mosque in the city of Plovdiv. In January, Israeli Jewish settlers set a mosque on fire in the West Bank, and spray-painted its walls with anti-Muslim hate messages. In the Central African Republic, a Christian cannibal nicknamed "Mad Dog" is reportedly eating the dead bodies of his Muslim victims. And in the United States, hate crimes against Muslims are at alarming highs.
So please, this Christmas -- and again, I realize it's nine months away -- can I make one request of my fellow Americans? Let's stop pretending that Christmas is under attack. Let's stop pretending that religion is under attack. Let's stop envisioning problems that don't exist, and let's try to maintain a bit of global perspective. Right now in Africa, churches are being burned to the ground, and Muslims are being eaten alive. This, America, is what it means to be under attack.
Let's stop putting words (and lawsuits) in the mouths of the ACLU, when the ACLU has no idea what we're talking about. We look like fools. Pretending that someone is preventing you from saying "Merry Christmas", then passing a bill to address a problem that doesn't exist, is a waste of paper at best, and crazy at worst.
Oh and by the way, once again... Merry Christmas everybody! That's right, I said it. Because I can. What are you going to do, sue me? Thanks to Tennessee's Merry Christmas bill, I have no reason to fear your silly lawsuits!
Then again, I probably never did.