Headlines today in Germany are touting a debate between right and left wingers about the Islamic burqa — right wingers are proposing a ban on the religious garment, just as they have done in France. Left wingers are warning that is an infringement on religious freedom — and doing that could put in jeopardy other religiously themed clothing that covers faces, such as Santa’s beard.
There are two very important parts to this story that should give Americans pause.
First, in Germany Santa Claus is known as Father Christmas or “Weihnachtsmann” (Christmas man). He is not a secular figure there…he is a religious figure, as he is for many other parts of Europe.
The American Santa is decidedly secular and the Supreme Court has said so. But there is no denying his sacred roots. Many other symbols of Christmas likewise are labeled secular but are clearly religious in origin. Many Americans do not know or do not acknowledge this.
Second, religious freedom is at the very heart of the War on Christmas. The pundits, as we have said many times, hype it as a “War on Christmas” when really it is a fight against what some hold sacred in the public space. It is a fight against free speech. It is a fight against freedom of religion.
This debate in Germany is very political and may or may not endure. But once again it highlights the slippery slope we are on when it comes to the public expression of private faith — AND the celebration of Christmas.
You should worry about it. Someday your plastic Santa that lights up could be considered illegal under some law meant to suppress religious expression. It’s moving very clearly in that direction.