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Prominent Atheist Activist Calls Gov't Observance of Christmas Unconstitutional, Proposes 'Family Day' Instead


"Designating the date upon which Christians observe the birth of their messiah as a federal holiday is making a law respecting an establishment of religion..."

FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor (Credit: AP)

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor (Credit: AP)

Forget the Grinch. Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor is claiming that it was the Christians who stole Christmas.

In an opinion piece on the New York Times' "Room for Debate," Gaylor called for an end to federal recognition of the popular holiday and indicated that the official adoption of Dec. 25 as a celebration of Jesus Christ's birth is, in her view, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"If I had my druthers, Christmas would not be a federal holiday. It’s a no-brainer," she wrote. "The First Amendment categorically states, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.' Clearly, designating the date upon which Christians observe the birth of their messiah as a federal holiday is making a law respecting an establishment of religion, and placing governmental weight behind Christianity."

While Gaylor is clearly anti-Christmas as the holiday currently stands, she offered up two potential solutions that would satisfy atheist activists. She proposed either renaming the federal holiday "Family Day" or another similar title that doesn't invoke Jesus' name. Or, instead, she urged federal acceptance of Dec. 21 as the winter solstice in place of Dec. 25.

As for this latter option, Gaylor expounded, highlighting her belief that Christians unfairly co-opted and stole the holiday; her proposal would apparently right this wrong:

The winter solstice is, after all, the reason for the season. It signals the rebirth of the sun and the natural new year. For millennia, our ancestors in the Northern Hemisphere have greeted this seasonal event with festivals of light, gift exchanges and feasts. The federal government’s description of Christmas as a federal holiday claims: “Decorating houses and yards with lights, putting up Christmas trees, giving gifts, and sending greeting cards have become holiday traditions even for many non-Christian Americans.” But it is the Christians who stole Christmas. We don’t mind sharing the season with them, but we don’t like their pretense that is the birthday of Jesus. It is, if anything, the birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The winter solstice has astronomical significance all Americans can mark, without reference to their religious beliefs.

Gaylor argues that federal recognition of the winter solstice or Family Day would get around the government's purportedly-problematic recognition of Christmas. Rather than focusing on Christ, she claims that this change would allow for more universal observance. Read her arguments here.

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