To the Editor:
Mr. Peter Josephs says (Dec. 29, “Pagan roots of Christmas trees”) that “with all due respect to Rabbi Glassman … neither the menorah nor the crèche have any legitimacy on government property.” I’m not truly sure if Mr. Josephs is referring to the separation clause of the U.S. Constitution, or if it’s just his personal opinion. Clearly the day-to-day understanding of the separation clause has been fought in the federal courts many times. The general understanding is that religious symbols on public property, along with other displays both of secular symbols, as well as religious displays of various religions not being used to create an “establishment of religion” by the government, are protected by the First Amendment securing the freedoms of speech and expression of the people.
Since 1979 the 30-foot-tall National Menorah has been displayed every year in the northeast quadrant of the Ellipse near the White House in our nation’s capital. Like every other traditional display of the people who make up this nation, the menorah has every right to be there. Some people think that the separation clause in our constitution guarantees separation from religion and assures citizens that they will be free from religious displays of any kind during holidays of any kind, but it’s not true. By the same token, in school my child can refer to the last week of December as “Christmas vacation.” Others are free to call it “Hanukkah vacation,” and still others “December vacation,” and considering the freedoms we have in this country, we don’t need to fear the “speech police.”
Clearly the theme of the season is peace. Let’s all tolerate one another and enjoy the season.
Mark S. Alexander