Wednesday, 19 December 2012 16:35

"Merry Christmas" should be cherished, not chastised

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“Merry Christmas.” Two such simple words referring to celebrating one of the most joyous times on the Christian calendar seems to be causing such a negative stir, especially by one man in particular.

For Christians, keeping “Christ” in “Christmas” is becoming more difficult these days. It’s being frowned upon by those who feel the need to sanitize everything, others who want to legally challenge anything and everything “just cause” and those who feel like they’re being inundated with the Christian message.
In a lengthy notice sent to Prairie Post Dec. 12, Saskatoon resident and former Canadian Forces reservist and self-described civil libertarian Ashu Solo complained about the “Merry Christmas” phrase being flashed on the front display of a Saskatoon bus. He called it hypocritical for the Forces to “fight for separation of religion and state in Kabul when this doesn’t fully exist in Saskatoon.”
“I was extremely surprised, offended, and angered that a municipal government organization like Saskatoon Transit would display a message pertaining to a religious holiday on its main bus sign,” Solo wrote in a letter to administration to the Saskatoon city manager and Saskatoon Transit managers. “This ... gives preferential treatment to one religion over all other religions in violation of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“It is extremely inappropriate and extremely discriminatory to have a Christmas message displayed by Saskatoon Transit ... Christmas messages on Saskatoon Transit buses make religious minorities, atheists, and agnostics who do not celebrate Christmas feel excluded and like second-class citizens ... the Christmas messages on Saskatoon Transit buses are a forcible attempt at Christian indoctrination.”
Unfortunately for Solo, Saskatoon city council members decided Dec. 17 to keep the “Merry Christmas” phrase on their buses for now. However, councillors will look at how to incorporate other religious celebratory messages in the future.
This won’t be the last of this challenge. Solo added in his letter he was giving Saskatoon Transit until Dec. 22, “to agree to not display a Christmas message or religious message again unless it is from a private advertiser and to make an apology to anyone who was offended including me. If these demands are not met, I will file a civil rights complaint ...  If this case goes to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, I will seek a judgment that has the effect of banning religious messages by government organizations throughout the province of Saskatchewan and that has persuasive value in other provinces too.”
Solo is not looking for any kind of monetary settlement, he just wants the messages gone.
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms will get yet another workout this time versus the government which protects people from religious bullying and prosecution. Lawyers will fill courtrooms comparing the phrase “Merry Christmas” to being religiously bullied by extremists in countries where guns and bombs are part of everyday life.
Will Easter egg hunts sponsored by city administrations be the next legal action targets?
Christianity was the cornerstone of the creation
of Canada and of the prairies and as such was incorporated in many of our laws. Because of that, Christian holidays dictate a lot of today’s holidays such as Thanksgiving, Easter and of course Christmas.
With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who are from Canada who don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter or those immigrants who are not of Christian faith that Christmas is widely celebrated and acknowledged by our governments.
With people of all faiths or for those who have none to speak of, there is or at least should be a respect which is directed to those which are different than themselves. Anyone saying “Happy Hanukkah,” observing Ramadan or the Hindi/Tamil/Bengali new years should feel free to do so without fear of prosecution or criticism. And other than a few racist nutbars who feel they need to be bullies — and who are subsequently persecuted under Canadian law — there is true  religious freedom in Canada.
Religious freedom is a Canadian cornerstone. In other countries such as Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Tunisia to name a few, people who go against the country’s dominant faith have either been harassed or in some cases — killed. In many war-torn countries, the cause of the strife is religion so celebrating one’s one faith is avoided in public. No such problem in the land of the Maple Leaf.
Immigration has added to Canada’s rich heritages. After all, immigration has made Canada what it is today — one of the best and certainly one of the more safe countries in the world.
Those who complain they don’t want to have to deal with “Christmas” all the time, should understand this is Canadian culture. Respect Christians as one would hope they would respect all beliefs. If the government wants to flash a “Merry Christmas” phrase on a bus, what’s the harm? It’s acknowledging a centuries’ old tradition and changing such wording doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
For those offended or oppressed by Christmas, ask yourselves this: if you’re employed, did you get the day off (and get paid for it) because of a Christian holiday such as Christmas? Do you work anyway or give the money back because you don’t celebrate it and feel guilty otherwise? Do you exchange presents or look at lights? Does your business benefit in any way from Christmas?
If you did, are you offended?
Happy (ugh!) Holidays to all and more specifically to Christians, Merry Christmas.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor