After a year full of contentious debate here in Washington and spirited political discourse debate across our nation, I would like nothing more than to take pause, give thanks for our many blessings, and wish you and your family a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah – but, I am not supposed to. Under current House rules, I am prohibited from including holiday greetings in a newsletter by the House Franking Commission, the group responsible for oversight of Congressional communications.
A certain level of civility, understanding, and tolerance of the many faiths that make up our great nation is required, demanded even, by our Constitution. However, a certain level of pragmatism is also necessary. Banning the use of holiday phrases like “Merry Christmas” is an overreach by the Franking Commission in an attempt to use political correctness to stifle even the most routine of end-of-year greetings. In fact, the use of general greetings such as “have a happy new year” or “have a safe and happy holiday season” is permissible under the rules. But, we are not celebrating winter. We are celebrating significant occasions in two religions that have fundamentally shaped our country throughout the course of history.
I hope the Commission reverses its guidance on holiday greetings, and this week I co-signed a letter to the Speaker of the House John Boehner and the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration Dan Lungren asking them to reconsider the rules. The purpose of the Franking Commission is to prevent the abuse of letters for political purposes. In no way is wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” political in nature. The Franking Commission is not meant to police the greetings used by Members of Congress or to enforce PC politics.
As a Christian, I celebrate Christmas as the day to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. However, oftentimes we can forget the meaning of Christmas by becoming too caught up in decorating or gift-giving, and attempts at political correctness can overshadow its significance. This year, I am proud to co-sponsor H. Res. 489, a resolution that expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for those who celebrate Christmas. More than 65 of my colleagues from both political parties have also co-sponsored this resolution. In addition, I am co-signing with members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus letters of thanks to the many U.S. retailers who continue to remember the reason for the Christmas season. Whether or not you and your family celebrate Christmas, it is important to recognize the freedom of religion provided by our First Amendment and allow Christmas traditions for those who celebrate it.
As your elected Member of Congress, I represent thousands of people who celebrate the traditions of their Christian or Jewish faiths, and thousands who do not. Just as we should not restrict the free speech of those who do not share a similar faith with mine, we must not restrict the ability to wish others a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Hanukkah.”
But for now, “wishing you and your family all the very best this Christmas season,” may you “have a safe and happy holiday season” and “have a happy new year.”
And Merry Christmas!