A federal appeals court is considering arguments that Christmas should no longer be observed as a national legal holiday.
During today’s hearing, a federal appeals judge asked Christmas opponent Richard Ganulin show how nonbelievers are harmed by the holiday.
Philosophical or religious objections aren’t enough to support a lawsuit to scrap the holiday observance, Judge Boyce Martin Jr. said.
“You don’t have to celebrate Christmas. You can ignore it,” Martin told Ganulin during a hearing in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Sometimes, we must accept those tenets of others that we don’t necessarily agree with, in order to live in peace,” he said.
A Matter of Exclusion Ganulin, an assistant city solicitor for Cincinnati who is representing himself in his case, argued that the Christmas holiday amounts to a government approval for a day of Christian religious origins marking the birth of Jesus Christ, competing with lessons he would teach his child.
“As a matter of law, it cuts me out, it excludes me, I’m an outsider, I’m an observer,” he said, after describing his Hebrew upbringing. “It’s a sectarian celebration.”
Ganulin sued the federal government in 1998, arguing that Congress violated the separation of church and state by embracing the Christian holiday more than a century ago.
Martin, one of three judges hearing the case, said he still wasn’t convinced that the holiday harms Ganulin. There is no requirement that Americans accept the views of their countrymen, the judge said.
Constitutional Right to Christmas
Lowell Sturgill Jr., a Justice Department lawyer representing the government, urged the appeals court to uphold a federal judge’s decision last December that threw out Ganulin’s lawsuit. Ganulin lacks standing to challenge the holiday and failed to show how it harms him, Sturgill said.
Roman Storzer, lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, backed the government’s arguments that the Christmas holiday is constitutionally permitted. The private organization represented three federal employees who intervened in the case.
Martin and fellow Judges Ralph Guy Jr. and R. Guy Cole Jr. did not say when they will rule.
Another Holiday Jingle? Ganulin filed his lawsuit as a private citizen. He took a vacation day from his job to argue the case today.
Government lawyers opposing Ganulin’s arguments also have noted that courts repeatedly have recognized secular aspects of Christmas, including holly, ivy, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, snowmen, jingling bells and presents on Christmas morning.
Congress established Christmas as a holiday in 1870 in the District of Columbia along with New Year’s Day and a day of thanksgiving, government lawyers noted in written arguments.
A year ago, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott used rhyming verse in ruling that the Christmas holiday does not amount to government establishment of religion.
“Christmas is about joy and giving and sharing. It is about the child within us; it is mostly about caring,” Dlott wrote. “There is room in this country and in all our hearts, too, for different convictions and a day off, too.”