2014 Symposium: Is political correctness infringing our freedom of religion (if you’re a Christian)?

Asheville: For all the derisive ways in which “political correctness” is discussed, at its core, it is about a simple concept: courtesy. We call others by the names they choose. It is no inconvenience to us, and it is a great service to them. We expand shared space to make room for the customs and traditions of others.

Every year around winter time, Christians with persecution complexes imagine a war is being waged against them because others choose to celebrate other holidays. They imagine themselves as being persecuted for practicing a religion because suffering for the sake of faith is among the most holy of sensations to believers. Inevitably, one of the sensitive self-righteous will make reference to freedom of religion. This is an incredibly problematic claim.

The First Amendment, which establishes religion as a mode of free expression, begins “Congress shall make no law…” If there is no law, there is no infringement of freedom of religion. When someone begins a defense of their activity thusly, the position they are taking is that what they are doing should not be prohibited by law. This is the last refuge of scoundrels. Yes, what they are doing should not be illegal. The state should not intervene to stop it. That does not mean what they are doing is socially acceptable, or polite, or humane. That is a very poor way to judge an action.

Rather than thinking about “rights,” we ought to think, particularly around the holidays, about responsibilities. We have a responsibility to treat others fairly and equitably. We have a responsibility to extend to others the same rights we expect to hold ourselves. We have a responsibility to address others by the names and languages they would prefer to use. If this is religious persecution, it is the mildest, weakest form in history.

Raleigh: Political correctness is an unavoidable reality of our lives nowadays. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary political correctness is, “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use the language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.” However, with so many groups of people adhering to one thing or another, it is a delicate balance now how to address many daily issues be those religious, political, or otherwise motivated.

Supposedly, the purpose of political correctness is a good one. After all, it presupposes tolerance, understanding, respect, and acceptance of different cultures and beliefs. However, it can often become a major obstacle and even can be a cause of major tensions between opposing groups. The U.S.A is a secular country. As such, it needs to recognize and respect people of many religions who are residing in the country. Still, majority (or 73 percent) of American population is Christian. Moreover, the U.S.A. is basically one of the last remaining Western countries where majority of population still attends Church regularly. Should the tolerance and political correctness for Christian religion be higher in the U.S.A. than in other countries?

In my opinion, it is better to express the same level of political correctness, tolerance and respect for every religion without giving preference to one or another. There should be no difference between Christianity, Islam, Judaism or any other religion in terms of treatment they receive on government level in a secular country. There is really not a reason to give preference to one religion as opposed to another based on some preconceived prejudices based on current political situation or religious map of the country.

However, many people feel that political correctness can sometimes come to extremes and Christian religion is being pushed out of the country. For example, the debate whether it is appropriate to say “Merry Christmas” as opposed to “Merry Holidays” has evoked a lot of unnecessary discussion. Still, most retailers do fine with “Merry Christmas” merchandise as opposed to more politically correct counterparts. As such, the dispute seems to be artificial and politically motivated.

Political correctness is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it promotes respect for different issues; on the other hand, it stifles candid and open dialogue. There should be a balance so that people can express their beliefs, opinions, and positions without fear of prosecution.

Prescott Valley: Political correctness is infringing upon our freedom of religion and many Christians have directly or indirectly felt the sting from the political correctness bite. Christianity is under attack in schools, college campuses, the workplace, businesses, the media, public forums, city halls, and even in the midst of monuments and sacred places that include the church itself. As former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg noted in a recent commencement address to Harvard University graduates, “Political correctness, it seems, is replacing freedom of speech.”

Freedom of speech is the very foundation of Christian expression, and the First Amendment of the Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. Two clauses in the First Amendment guarantee freedom of religion. The establishment clause prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official state religion, and the free exercise clause prohibits the government, in most instances, from interfering with a person’s practice of their religion.

With the First Amendment being on the side of all Americans and Christians alike, freedom of religion is alive and political correctness cannot overturn the amendment or the clauses. Religious freedom is pivotal in that it is able to limit the authority that political correctness has exerted over Christianity and other institutions in America. It must never be abolished despite the encroachment that political correctness has made in our society and culture.

In order to thwart the threat of political correctness, the revival of the First Amendment must take precedence over any threat that political correctness brings to the culture. That can occur with the willingness of Christians to speak out about the hypocritical nature of political correctness and how the truth can remedy the intolerance that political correctness projects. Truth telling comes with countering political correctness through the inclusion and acceptance of all people, but essentially not all beliefs, and it means showing others how to listen and learn from all people but essentially not agreeing with them. The political correctness stranglehold can be broken through First Amendment advocacy and the truth. It may be hard to speak the truth, but the First Amendment allows it and the Savior said, “The truth will set you free.”

Cartwright: Yes, there’s no doubt about that. The liberal, anti-Christians want to religiously emasculate us. You can’t say Merry Christmas. It has to be Happy Holidays so you don’t offend someone else. That’s bullshit. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s fine, but why get offended by it? If someone wished me Happy Hanukah, I wouldn’t be offended. I’d tell them thank you and same to them. I think the underlying theme behind the holidays, regardless of which holiday you celebrate, is peace and goodwill, which I talked about at length in my speech yesterday at lunch. So, why are people so worried about expressing the Christian faith during Christmas?

Maybe those who object also object to peace and goodwill? Is that why they want to take away any mention of Christmas? If you don’t believe in Christ, that’s your right, but if you don’t want to allow others to celebrate a message of peace and goodwill, what does that say about you and your tolerance? If I celebrate Christmas and say Merry Christmas, that doesn’t mean you have to believe what I do or that you have to agree with me. If, however, you’re offended by it, you need to get thicker skin, and if that’s the only thing you have to worry about, you need to get a life. Instead of worrying about Christmas, how about focusing those energies on something productive like feeding the hungry or helping those who have been displaced or caring for homeless animals?

I really think we’ve allowed the entire political correctness issue to go too far, but I’ll not digress into that bigger discussion. Clearly, we’ve also allowed the secularization of Christmas to go too far as well. The argument that you can’t display the Nativity or just about any other sign of Christmas on some government property as a violation of the separation of church and state is ridiculous. This country was founded by Christians, more devout Christians that we can probably imagine today. Our Founding Fathers showed their faith through prayer and the numerous references to God in the federal government. They mention the Creator in the Declaration of Independence. Each President has placed his hand on The Bible and said “So help me God” at the end of the Presidential Oath of Office. Yet there are still some who want to take all references to this away.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s ok. You’re not obligated to do so, but don’t tell me that I can’t celebrate it openly as we have done in this nation for hundreds of years. And, if you’re a foreigner here and you’re of another faith, learn to live with it. I sincerely doubt that your homeland would scrap any celebration of your faith if I went there and objected to it.

What is sad as well is that businesses of all sizes are getting sucked into this ‘Happy Holidays’ nonsense lest they potentially offend someone and that someone may not do business with them. These business owners need to get some guts. I don’t care what holiday people celebrate. I do business with them based on their reputation, their honesty, their quality, and so on. I’m certainly not going to be offended if I go into your business and you’re celebrating another holiday.

Let’s get real people. Time to stop this nonsense. Quit trying to secularize Christmas!

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