As divisions in our culture threaten the Christmas season, believers can remain confident and secure in their religious expression.
The National Center for Life and Liberty has just released information explaining what rights Christians have when it comes to this time of year.
"There has been this push to eliminate Jesus Christ as the reason for the season, and a lot of people somehow believe that they have to do that or that the Constitution requires it, and there is so much misinformation," says David Gibbs III, NCLL president and general counsel.
"What we wanted to do," he says, "is make sure that good people all across this nation understand that they can celebrate Christmas and keep Christ first and foremost throughout this season."
What about singing, decorating or reading Scripture in public at Christmastime?
"We absolutely have the right to sing, promote, decorate, for Jesus Christ," Gibbs tells OneNewsNow. "People see an occasional lawsuit where someone may say a government agency is over-promoting Christmas, but even those [Christmas activities] are generally upheld as completely permissible."
For example, Gibbs says even government officials can say "Merry Christmas."
"Government officials can go ahead and promote Jesus Christ and things like that as long as there is some balance to their display," he continues. "When it comes to the church, when it comes to private businesses, when it comes to individual families, you are unlimitedly protected, both in your free speech and your freedom of religion."
What about schools? This is that time of year when we hear or see news stories about school plays being canceled because of a lawsuit or threat of legal action.
"Public schools have the right to sing Christmas carols, to focus on the religious components of Christmas," says Gibbs. "What we have to encourage our public schools to do is to make sure they maintain some balance. So along with what we'll call the sacred or traditional songs, to also include some general, festive and fun songs."
Gibbs says it's what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor once referred to in 1984 in the Lynch v Donnelly case as the reindeer rule.
"She said, You can have baby Jesus and the manger, as long as you have some reindeer therek, too, along with Santa,” Gibbs explains. “The idea is that you don’t make it look like you're promoting one religion at the expense of the other. What the other side wants to do is sterilize and strip out any religious component to the holiday."
Even so, individuals, organizations and think tanks point to the establishment clause as the reason why things in the public sector have to be free of religion. According to Gibbs, the founding fathers simply did not want a state religion with the leader of the country as head of the church.
"Here in the United States, there was never any thought that we were going to eradicate God from government," he says. "We had our founding fathers praying and looking to the word of God, and celebrating their religious heritage and their religious diversity."