Letter to the Editor: Let's make the Holiday More Inclusive at the High School

ACLU Club members at Benicia High want expanded holiday decorations.

The American Civil Liberties Union does not associate itself with any political party or any religion. As a chapter of the ACLU, Benicia High’s ACLU is here to fight for the rights and liberties of all American citizens and ensure that everyone is treated fairly. The issue of the Christmas tree on a public school campus is not a matter of public opinion or preference; it is a matter of upholding the law in order to provide fair treatment for all. If the tree was purchased using public funds and set up by a class funded by the government, then there are implications that the government is favoring the Christmas holiday, and therefore, the Christian religion. The problem then becomes about context. The tree was placed center-stage in the quad, implying that it holds greater importance than other decorations. If the tree was accompanied, however, with decorations from all holidays, with the intent of educating students of all the holidays celebrated in December, then it would be permissible. A group of symbols representing the different December holidays would together represent the freedom of religion allowed here in the United States.

Benicia High School’s ACLU wants to make every student feel welcome at school. We do not want any student to feel alienated by only acknowledging one specific holiday celebration. The Founding Fathers’ Bill of Rights insured Americans the freedom to practice whatever religion they chose, and that should be celebrated. At an educational institution, what better way is there to celebrate the winter season than to educate the students about other cultures and their own civil liberties? The Benicia High School ACLU encourages an extension of the holiday decorations, rather than a removal.


Erin Robertson and Aidan Harley

Presidents, Benicia High School’s American Civil Liberties Union

Mike December 07, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Good one, Bruce.
Bruce Rockwell December 07, 2011 at 07:52 PM
And another thing Robert, could you please spare us the appeals to your own personal nostalgia, to the good ol' days when air was clean and sex was dirty? Most of us have a lot of wonderful childhood memories of the holidays, no matter what our backgrounds are. That simply isn't relevant. Because if we want to be Factually Correct (as opposed to Politically Correct), we would also have to acknowledge the shadow of McCarthyism, and how it must have felt to live as a non-Christian member of society back then. And on a side note, if you want to return back to the glory days when everyone was a White Anglo Saxon Protestant and the Dodgers played in Ebbets Field and I Like Ike - the time that you conservatives seem to always harken back to as exemplifying the bedrock values of America - then let's really go back there! Let's bring taxes on the wealthy back to 94% on high income (it sure wasn't a "job killer" back then!), let's invest heavily in infrastructure again, let's bring back the Fairness Doctrine, let's let people immigrate on the basis of an oath and a TB test, let's end corporate personhood, let's make higher education free the way we did back then in this state. Let's not pick and choose, as if you could somehow enjoy your Christian hegemony a la carte, without anything else that characterized the American experience in the post-war era.
Robert Livesay December 07, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Bruce do you think i really care what you say. Do not tell me how to write. If you do not like what i write do not read or comment on it. It appears you like what I write so you can comment and try to be cute and funny in a very grammer school way. Bruce if you just want to be an angry person during this Christmas season go ahead and be that way. Do you think anyone really cares. You have never expierenced the things I have so I would not comment on them. All the folks like yourself are wraped up in so0me sort "lets all be nice and fuzzy" but if I mention something nice I am the bad boy at Christmas time. Get your act together and enjoy what is going on, you just migh enjoy it.
T. Gunter December 07, 2011 at 10:30 PM
"the appeals to your own personal nostalgia" - I like that.
upptick December 07, 2011 at 10:37 PM
wait wait wait, Kathy says that the group she is a member of is "the most prosperous subculture" in the U.S. yet she's arguing on here about being singled out and oppressed somehow because the majority culture wants to decorate an evergreen tree? Anyone else feel like they've fallen down a rabbit hole?
Bruce Rockwell December 07, 2011 at 11:42 PM
I'm not angry at all, I love this time of year, and I do enjoy these public celebrations, very much. I'm sorry as it seems that I've offended you, but after all I don't know you and I can only take your writings on this thread at face value. I'm not telling you how to write, I'm merely reminding you of your own words, after all. I find it curious that you are reading "anger" into the desire to see all Americans (and all BHS students) included in civic holiday observances. No anger here, just basic human decency, a certain level of respect for people who aren't like me, and a deeper sense of patriotism than what you've been able to articulate (remember "E Pluribus Unum?"). Merry Christmas!
Jeff Schwartz December 08, 2011 at 01:54 AM
Eileen...those type of slurs are pure ignorance and will not disappear in my lifetime..... fortunately I can say that I have not had that type of experience in regard to holiday greetings/conversation...however I never underestimate the inappropriateness of anyone. When you least expect it a hater pops up.
Kathy December 08, 2011 at 01:59 AM
Oh upptick. I think it is just fine that people decorate "evergreen trees" (though I thing you would get a lot of grief from the people who want to "bring Christ back into CHRISTmas - espeically with the CHRISTmas tree." But again, I have NO PROBLEM with people decorating trees, being Christian, celebrating Christmas, shopping shopping shopping to make the perfect Christmas. All I am asking is, is it REALLY so difficult to recognize that other people do not celebrate Christmas and it might be a kind gesture to say Happy HOLIDAYS if you don't know what someone celebrates. Is it REALLY that difficult to understand upptick? No one is trying to take away Christmas. Not even me. I would also like it if the world, or at least our community was a little more open to other people and their traditions so that my kids aren't called "dirty Jews" by classmates here in our town of Benicia. Is that too much to ask?
Kathy December 08, 2011 at 02:02 AM
Ridinlow - my comment above says nothing about any teacher gettting reprimanded or fired. A student asked her to play Hanukkah music and gave her a cd. How is that reprimanded or fired?
John Headley December 08, 2011 at 05:42 AM
And Happy Kwanzaa!!!
Kathy December 08, 2011 at 06:03 AM
Rude. I didn't see "should be" if it was in your original post. Or rather I read it with an "a" in there.
Kathy December 08, 2011 at 06:09 AM
Again, I read this as your saying "unbelievabe that A TEACHER should be fired" not that you thought they should be. Sorry you had to be rude to me instead of pointing out that I didn't see the "should be" Sorry I missed it - it created a lot of unneeded comment between us.
Robert Livesay December 08, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Karen i am still confused on what you are trying to say. Do you celebrate Christmas or do you combine all other folks celebrations into one event and go at it. If we say Happy Holiday I guess we celebrate all events at this time of year. I celebrate Christmas, I know where I stand. I say Merry Christmas. Now I believe that states where I stand. I do not care what others say or do. Go to it. But do not try to bring me into your way of thinking. I will not follow. MERRY CHRISTMAS
Karen LaRiviere December 08, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Gosh Bob, my comment wasn't meant to give you a headache trying to figure it out - all I said was that because of the variety of people I have encountered throughout the years, many of whom are not Christian, I try not to "assume" that they are so I simply say, Happy Holidays to cover all the bases. It recognizes all celebrations at this time of year, is respectful and inclusive. For the life of me I don't understand why saying "Happy Holidays" to you or most all of the other Fox News watchers and their "War on Christmas" segments is so offensive? It's like giving red meat to a dog! If I told you to "Bugger Off," then I could see you being upset, but it's "Happy Holidays" for pete's sake. You make it sound as though you are being persecuted because some people are trying to broadly include ALL people, religions, cultural celebrations at this time of the year. It's not about being "PC" it's about having an open mind and not being so damn rigid in my beliefs and thinking that I feel everyone else should think or believe the same as me. I celebrate Christmas, played Santa happily for many years and now get to start all over again with my grandson. I've written reply letters to Santa and lost a bundle because of inflation with the Tooth Fairy. However, I don't think it's my place to assume that every single person I encounter, every single day, celebrates Christmas. Merry Christmas Bob.
Robert Livesay December 08, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Karen what is this headache stuff? What does Fox News have to do with? Do you dislike Fox News watchers? You apparently watch Fox News or you would not know about the "War on Christmas" segments. I say Merry Christmas and am very comfortable with it. But you say "Happy Holidays" for pete's sake. Now do I have to follow your line of thinking?" Is it OK if I follow mine and many others independent way of thinking? I broadly include all people when I say Merry Christmas. I do not care if they do not like it. You are right it is not about PC it is about being touchy feely. MERRY CHRISTMAS
upptick December 09, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Alright, kids, so here's the real deal and why Christmas trees will always be relevant and why they will always matter. Once upon a time, before people knew about science, a desert tribe figured out the basic principles of socio-biology and evolutionary psychology. They codified their findings and actually wrote them down in scrolls which later became known as the bible. Stuff like the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, the Sermon on the Mount, the Doctrine of Forgiveness, and a few others. To be sure, there was a lot of fluff and essentially unproven hypotheses included as well -- all the stuff about animal sacrifice in the Old Testament, for example. But essentially, the Jews and in particular their King figured out Natural Law and it has been passed down to us, generation after generation, in the form of the Bible along with all of its cultural trappings. This basic culture -- particularly after it was modified and enriched with classic entrepreneurial capitalism which is focused on problem solving and technology creating -- is THE reason why the West has come to dominate. The malefactors out there who bitch and moan about Christmas and who are willing to not only bash the poor modern day (granted somewhat dopey) Christians just don't get it.
upptick December 09, 2011 at 02:30 PM
(cont) This would all be mostly amusing but for the fact that the people who are the best equpped to defend their Judeo-Christian heritage mostly either ignore it or are downright contemptuous of it. Hence, the rise of competing cultural mythologies. Like the one where, instead of god dying for Man, has men dying for their god. If they don't wake up, their daughters will all be in burkas in another couple of generations. tsk tsk tsk
Bruce Rockwell December 09, 2011 at 03:06 PM
That's all very amusing, but you forgot to mention why Christmas trees will always be relevant. And for the sake of this discussion, why they need to be relevant in a public school which is legally mandated to remain either completely secular or completely inclusive of all represented religious views (including atheism). Also, the Golden Rule and the sense of morality expressed so eloquently in The Sermon on the Mount are hardly unique to Judeo Christianity or western culture - they are nearly universal human value systems that exist in some form or other across all the world's major religions, as well as the non-anthropocentric ones that we tend to dismiss as "pagan." Obviously, since eight of the Ten Commandments would be immediately struck down by our laws as unconstitutional, our legal traditions surely do not come from the bible! Given that - like the Book of Mormon - there isn't one shred of evidence to suggest that anything in the Old Testament ever happened (even the captivity in Egypt has not so much as one hieroglyphic, not one shard of pottery that might suggest that even one Israelite ever lived there during that time, let alone close to a million), if the Jews figured out anything, it was how to falsify a supernatural mythology and tribal history to bind their people together and enhance their territorial claims. Moreover, your narrative excludes men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine. None of whom were Christian.
Robert Livesay December 09, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Paine was not a Christian. Jefferson, Madison were. Franklin was very Christian friendly and could be considered a Episcopalian or Anglican. So to say none were Christian is wrong.
T. Gunter December 09, 2011 at 06:34 PM
To imply that societal morals could not have evolved without a book filled with fairy tales, is asinine.
Bruce Rockwell December 09, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Thomas Paine hated the church. James Madison was an outspoken Deist. Franklin's rejection of Christ was well-known, and not particularly controversial in the age of the Enlightenment. Thomas Jefferson thought that the bible was so full of man-made corruptions that even as president he took on the task of rewriting the new testament without all of these errors. In the Jefferson Bible, Jesus is born the usual way, taught some amazing sermons, and was crucified. End of story. In the more tolerant age of the Enlightenment, it was not considered incongruous to admire many aspects of Christianity, but not practice it or believe in it. Tell me Robert, if somebody rejects the basic divinity of Christ and the resurrection, would you consider that person to be Christian by your own definitions? I'd be happy to lend you my copy of The Jefferson Bible to disabuse you of your illusions regarding the founders. But would that stop you from trying to paint these infidels in the image of your own faith? One can't help but wonder how rabid the response on the right would be today if a sitting president were an outspoken critic of the church, a religious reformer with the audacity to rewrite the bible and remove all supernatural references, just as Thomas Jefferson did. I think we can probably guess what your reaction might be.
T. Gunter December 09, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Would it not be something to see a confirmed atheist as president in our life time? What do you think are the chances?
Robert Livesay December 09, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Bruce the only true non-Christian was Paine.
Old Dog December 09, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Franklin was a Deist who fathered children by a common-law-wife.
Robert Livesay December 09, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Franklin at the same time was a ANGLICAN AND WAS VERY CHRISTIAN friendly. Jefferson and Madison were also very Christain friendly, but approached it much differently. To call them non-Christian is a stretch.
Old Dog December 09, 2011 at 11:21 PM
"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Mohandas Gandhi
Bruce Rockwell December 10, 2011 at 12:48 AM
I suppose if you define the word very broadly, you could say anything you want about who was or wasn't Christian among the Deist founders. But it would be inaccurate and dishonest. You can't call a Deist a Christian merely because he is tolerant of Christianity. The bottom line for most Christians is whether or not you believe Jesus was the messiah who was crucified and resurrected as a substitutionary atonement for sins. Surely that is the only reasonable definition of what a Christian is? All of these men - Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Madison, not to mention John Adams and many others in the founding generation - rejected the central tenet of Christian faith, in no uncertain terms. It's not a stretch to call them non-Christian when they weren't Christian! If anything, your trying to paint a Christian cross on the Deist foreheads of the Founders is a stretch, merely because these men were "Christian friendly." I mean, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are gay that I respect very highly. I suppose you could say that I'm "gay friendly," Robert. Does that mean I'm gay?
Robert Livesay December 10, 2011 at 04:26 AM
I believe you are talking about Christians when you are not one yourself. At least that is what I getting from your comments. I may be wrong. Christians no how to judge a Christian, someone who is not Christian can not make that judgement. They are biased in there feelings.. Read the Constitution. Many reference to the Lord. Now can you day who's lord? I guess you can, but it will not fly.
Old Dog December 10, 2011 at 05:48 PM
Whenever i can't convince someone, i begin to babble.
Robert Livesay December 10, 2011 at 08:07 PM
You do good job if it.


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