Congress votes ‘yes’ for Christmas

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Last week, Minnesota’s House delegation voted for Christmas. The passage of House Resolution 847 has generated criticism from separation of church and state advocates, and those who voted against the bill have been accused of anti-Christian bigotry. A few others have asked whether Congress has the time to waste on resolutions aimed at fanning the flames of the supposed “War on Christmas.”

HR 847, or the “Christmas Bill” says in part:

[T]he House of Representatives recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world; expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide; acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith; acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization; rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

Introduced by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the bill, according to King’s spokester, was meant as a response to a bill recognizing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and another recognizing the festival of Diwali, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. The resolution was cosponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“The Christmas resolution Congressman King has offered is only being offered because there have been two previous resolutions earlier this year in October,” a spokester with King’s office told Think Progress. “It was actually entirely unprecedented to even consider them for a vote. Religions have not been singled out and honored previously in Congress. But now that this precedent has been set, Congressman King thought it was important to honor Christmas. This is just simply the exact same language used as the Ramadan resolution on Oct 2.”

Several Democrats voted “no” on the resolution, a vote that has resulted in harsh criticism. “The naysayers didn’t make it to the floor to debate. I would like to know how they could vote ‘yes’ on Islam, ‘yes’ on the Indian religions and ‘no’ on Christianity,” King said in a press release. “The foundation of this nation and this culture is Christian… I think there’s an assault on Christianity in America.”

“It’s time we stood up and said so and said to the rest of America, ‘Be who you are, and be confident, and let’s worship Christ and celebrate Christmas for the right reasons’,” he told Fox News.

Those who voted against the measure have been dealt the predictable rhetoric. “Why Do Dems Hate Christmas?” writes one columnist. “The Democrats’ Jesus smack down,” writes another.

One Democrat who voted against the resolution said it wasn’t a vote against Christmas or Christianity; it was a vote against King. “Obviously, it’s a protest vote against Steve King,” Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who is a Christian, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “It’s Christmas time. There are lots of Christians in the U.S. Hurray for Christmas. It’s ridiculous,” McDermott said. He said the resolution is a waste of time. “We’re talking about Christmas, and we do not care about kids in the state of Washington,” McDermott said referring to President Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program last week.

Christmas and Jesus won in Minnesota this year, however. All of Minnesota’s House delegation voted for the resolution, a move that has caused some consternation among constituents. A DailyKos diarist penned his first post ever, with a letter to Rep. Betty McCollum:

Your Yea vote today on Steve Kings motion, Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith, is a travesty to the separation of church and state and goes directly in the face of the ideals embraced by the Founders of this nation. By voting Yea on this measure you have aided in the tearing down of the wall founded in the Constitution between church and state and have advanced this nation closer to a theocracy, embracing one religion over all others.

This is a shameful vote.

August Berkshire, public relations officer for the Minnesota Atheists said that the resolution is legal, but it does raise ethical questions. “What business is it of the government to make proclamations regarding religion? Wouldn’t the authority to praise a religion also entail the authority to condemn a religion? Do we want our government meddling into religious affairs?”

Berkshire continued, “It also begs the question: Don’t these legislators have better things to do with their time? How about balancing the budget so that every Christian, not to mention everyone else, doesn’t have a $30,000 share of the national debt on his or her back?”

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