Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Journal Editorial Report
Front Page
Lead Story
Briefing & Opinion
Tony & Tacky
TV Schedule
For Teachers
About the Series

December 10, 2004

A Swinging Holiday
Denver City/County building

The lights of the annual holiday display illuminate the Denver City/County Building to kick off the Christmas season in the Mile High City, November 26. (AP/David Zalubowski)

Midst all the holiday cheer, December is also the time of year when the public display of religious symbols can collide with constitutional and legal questions -- or with the comfort levels of people who have different views about religion. Take, for example, a few notable instances this year. A high school band in New Jersey was not allowed to play Christmas carols at the school's holiday concert because it might offend Jewish families or others. In Chicago, the words "merry Christmas" were deleted from a song and replaced with "a swinging holiday." Finally, in Denver, the annual Parade of Lights banned openly religious themes. Members of a local evangelist Christian church protested nearby when they were told they could not have a parade float with a religious theme and a choir singing hymns.
Paul Gigot
Paul Gigot
"We live in one of the most religious countries in the world. Our coins say "in God we trust," the Congress starts each session with a prayer. How did we get to this situation where people are substituting in school 'a swinging holiday' for 'merry Christmas?'"
Robert Pollock
Robert Pollock
"Read what the First Amendment actually says, 'Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' What does that mean? It means we can't have a state church in the United States. It means we can't prevent people from worshiping freely. Any judge who looks at that and says it has anything to say about whether local government can use public moneys or public lands to celebrate a holiday is reading his own preferences into the Constitution."
Daniel Henninger
Daniel Henninger
"The burden falls back on public officials, who are supposed to try to figure out what is legal and what isn't. What's their solution? They decide nothing's legal and so you have examples like the ones we just saw."
Dorothy Rabinowitz
Dorothy Rabinowitz
"What do you expect of ordinary principals in high schools when they see rulings by these supreme justices come down to discussions about whether a Christmas tree demeans the religious meaning of a Menorah."
View Full Transcript
Viewer Opinions & Response
Links and Sources

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Paul Gigot Commentary

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Susan Lee Commentary

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Daniel Henninger Commentary

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Dorothy Rabinowitz Commentary