FFRF chides Boehner for misinformed Christian remarks at tree lighting

Following is a copy of the letter that was sent to Speaker Boehner. Click on his name (below) to write and send a concise note of objection. You may also view the tree lighting ceremony here (Speaker Boehner's segment begins at 17:55). 

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
Washington, D.C. Office
1011 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Injecting Religion and Inaccuracies into Seasonal Event

Dear Speaker of the House:

I am writing on behalf of the members of our national organization, which works to educate the public about nontheism and to defend the precious Jeffersonian “wall of separation between church and state.” FFRF represents not only its 17,000 membership, but the viewpoint of the significant and growing number of Americans who are nonreligious, at least 15% of the adult U.S. population, according to the definitive American Religious Identification Survey.

I was truly shocked to witness, via C-SPAN, your unnecessarily proselytizing and exclusionary remarks at the Capitol tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 6. On that civic occasion, you said:

"The Christmas tree flourishes as a symbol of everlasting life. That life and light of course is Christ, whose birth to Mary fulfills a prophecy of joy and salvation. Out in the fields where the shepherds slept, the angels broke the silence by singing "Glory to god in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to men. . . For Christmas is not some distant historic event. It is a Spirit, always bringing us closer to each other and to the peace of which the angels sang. . . .”

For a fact, the Christians stole Christmas. We don’t mind sharing the season with you, but we don’t like this pretense that it is the birthday of Jesus. It is the birthday of the Unconquered Sun — Dies Natalis Invicti Solis. Christmas is a relic of sun worship.

The Winter Solstice, this natural holiday, has been celebrated long before Christians crashed the party. For millennia in the Northern Hemisphere our ancestors have greeted the Winter Solstice Season with festivals of light, gift exchanges, decorated evergreens and wreaths, and gatherings with friends and family. The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season, heralding the symbolic rebirth of the Sun, the lengthening of days and the natural New Year.

The season belongs to all of us — regardless of personal religious beliefs. Attaching sectarian doctrinal significance to a decorated evergreen tree is absurd. Claiming the season, typically symbolized by evergreens, for Christians alone was rude, divisive and exclusionary. It is intellectual rubbish to assert that evergreen trees symbolize the birth of Jesus or fulfillment of a bible prophecy. Not only are there no “evergreens” in the New Testament Jesus narratives, but the the bible expressly condemns as “the way of the heathen” the custom of cutting “a tree out of the forest” and decking it. (Jeremiah 10:2-8)

As Speaker of the House, you took an oath to uphold a godless and entirely secular Constitution, whose only references to religion are exclusionary, such as that there shall be no religious test for public office. That constitutional separation between religion and government has resulted in a country where everyone, including you, is free to believe, or disbelieve. But speech given in your official capacity as Speaker should necessarily be more careful than personal speech. It was insensitive and unseemly to proselytize, to take advantage of a ceremonial event that ought to have been inclusionary, in a way that marginalized and excluded the 24% of Americans who are not Christian or nominally Christian.

You were invited to the tree-lighting ceremony not because you are a professing Christian in your personal life but because you hold a secular office, representing the House of Representatives and millions of Americans of diverse religious beliefs and non-beliefs.

You were not elected Preacher of the House, but Speaker of the House. We urge you to endeavor in the future to avoid misusing your ceremonial duties to make gratuitous and sectarian remarks at public events intended to welcome all Americans.

Very truly,

Annie Laurie Gaylor

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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