HNC Home Page
News Business Arts & Life Sports Opinion Calendar Archive About Us
DO THEY GET COLD FEET?: Ducks paddle upstream at Third Dam in Logan Canyon. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Friday, January 20, 2006

Variations on "truthiness":

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

-- Mark Twain, author, newspaperman and humorist (1835-1910)

MENTORS WANTED: Media professionals in all fields wanted to serve as email mentors for journalism students. If interested, send email slugged "Mentors" to Ted Pease (

Box Elder residents speak their minds in nation's 'happy holidays' debate

By Angel Larsen

December 14, 2005 | What is the bright green fir or pine tree covered in twinkling lights? Is it a Christmas tree or a holiday tree? Do you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? If you do not celebrate Christmas do you get offended when someone says "Merry Christmas" to you?

Questions similar to these have created debates from Washington, D.C. to Boston. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has been quoted in newspaper articles and television broadcasts saying that discrimination occurs when people call the decorated trees "Christmas trees." He claims it excludes people of other faiths. The side for calling them Christmas trees is the Liberty Counsel, a legal group that deals with religious issues. They claim by not allowing them to be called Chr istmas trees discriminates against Christians.

How is this national debate affecting people in Box Elder County?

Pastor Robert Brannon of the Rocky Mountain Bible Church in Willard, said, "let's understand that there is no Christmas without Christ. To leave the word 'Christ' out of Christmas is like leaving the word 'thanks' out of Thanksgiving."

Brannon leads one of 10 Christian faiths in Box Elder county. He says the debate over Christmas stems from the older conflict between Satan and Christ. Brannon said "the biggest concern is not the battle over words, but rather the battle over the souls of men and women." He said people should be worried about places beyond this life like heaven and hell.

"The silliness of our present situation is portrayed when one hears militant shouts of 'religious establishment' following on the heels of a public official's harmless sentiment of 'Merry Christmas,'" said Pastor Jim Catlin of the Living Hope Christian Fellowship in Brigham City. "Just how religiously coercive can that really be to the citizens of a community?"

Catlin says America was founded for the purpose of not "restricting the free expression of a plurality of faiths" or by coercing its citizens to follow one state religion. Catlin grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Maryland where Hanukkah and Christmas displays were set up next to each other throughout the neighborhood.

"As a community, we all knew that our seasonal celebrations had various origins," Catlin said. "It seemed natural that the public space that we as citizens co-owned ought to include a variety of the symbols of our celebrations.

"Citizens, it is now argued, are susceptible to the perception of government-religious alliances and they will be hopelessly coerced into joining those religions," Catlin said. He said decorations are not going to force a person to join a specific religion.

"Our cultural desire seems to have transitioned from one that protects freedom of religion to one that must enforce freedom from religion for a select and, arguably, susceptible few," Catlin said. "A few, I might add, who are prone to instigating lucrative litigation at the public's expense."

But these men are religious leaders. What do the citizens of Box Elder county think?

Gary and Yvonne Adams have lived in Perry for 43 years. When asked about the holiday debate, both agreed it was unnecessary. "Only one or two people complain and everyone has to listen," Gary Adams said.

"It makes me so mad," Yvonne Adams said. She said she and Gary went shopping on Saturday in Salt Lake City. She said things like "Merry Weather" or "Very Merry" were written on store windows but not one "Merry Christmas" was seen. "It was terrible,"she said. "No feeling of sacredness for Christmas. We didn't spend a penny because of it. Why can people cut down Christian values all the time?"

Niki Jensen, a Brigham City resident but a Clearfield native, says Clearfield is not allowed any Christmas decorations but shooting stars because people complained about the decorated trees offending them.

"That is stupid," Jensen said. "You can't tell someone their holiday offends you. It's not your holiday. I don't think anyone has the right to tell you what to do with your holiday." Jensen said if there is problem with Christmas decorations that other holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa should put up decorations as well. She said just one holiday cannot be censored but all three should be allowed to display decorations.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
Best viewed 800 x 600.