It's just not consistent with my normal feelings about this kind of thing. I firmly believe in separation of church and state, and I feel very strongly about it. I wrote last month about my ill ease at being forced to vote in a church, and I support the lawsuit of a Florida man fighting his local election board over that exact issue. I vehemently oppose the teaching of "intelligent design" in the science classrooms of public schools; I also see no room for prayer in public schools. I don't think the ten commandments should be displayed in courthouses or other public spaces.
All these things smack of government endorsement of religion. Thanks, but no. I'll stick with my first amendment. So as I thought about all these things, my own inconsistency was disturbing me. Shouldn't I be opposed to the display of religious artifacts in public facilities? Well, yes, and I am. My stumbling block was the classification of the Christmas tree as religious: to me it is more of a pagan display than anything else. I bounced my concerns off SodaBoy. He pointed out that the very language is part of the problem. Christmas is a Christian holiday; calling a decoration a Christmas tree makes it by default religious. There is that problematic detail.
I got online this evening to look further into the matter.
First of all, leave it to the television to get every.single.detail about the Seattle airport case WRONG. Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky did not sue to have Christmas tree removed; he merely wanted to see the inclusion of a menorah. Which his organization had volunteered to both provide, and set up. The Port of Seattle chose to remove the trees instead of allowing the erection of a menorah. This caused a huge uproar. People wanted their trees back. The Rabbi graciously withdrew his suit yesterday, since he'd never intended for the trees to be removed, and last night airport staff reinstalled the trees. Still no menorah though. Read more here.
Secondly, I am not the only one who doesn't find Christmas trees to be a religious display. It turns out the Supreme Court agrees with me. Both Christmas trees and menorah displays "are part of the same winter-holiday season, which, the court found, has attained a secular status in US society." The case was decided in 1989. So this entire media hoopla was entirely pointless. The Port of Seattle was completely unreasonable in denying the request to display the menorah, and utterly irresponsible in their decision to remove the trees in the first place. It's non-issue: put them both up, and stop stirring up anti-Semitism.
So the Supreme Court says I shouldn't feel guilty about not objecting to Christmas trees or menorah displayed in public. Greens and lights, baby, bring it on. Here is our own personal holiday tree:
And as for the Rabbi Bogomilsky, I wish him all the luck in the world. Now that I've taken the time to learn more about the situation, and understand his good intentions, I can't help but support his cause. No menorah display in the airport might seem like a petty little first world problem, but if no one fights against these unjustices, we will all be the the poorer for it.