When I first saw the story of Starbucks getting backlash over their holiday cups on my newsfeed, I thought I was looking at an article from The Onion.
Surely this had to be satire.
It took me a good couple of minutes to realize that this was, in fact, a legitimate news article. Apparently, people were boycotting and harassing Starbucks because their new plain red holiday cup design had “removed Christ and Christmas” from previous years’ designs.
Thus, Starbucks became one more thing in a long list of perceived enemies in ‘The War on Christmas.’
Except here’s the thing: Starbucks never had Christmas designs on their cups. They had snowflakes and pine trees and the occasional snowman or reindeer, but the cups were never emblazoned with the words “Merry Christmas,” merely secular winter and holiday images.
But even this clarification shouldn’t have to be made, because there’s no such ‘War on Christmas.’ As much as Fox News and certain politicians would have you believe, this Christian tradition is in absolutely no danger.
If anything, the world is in danger of Christmas. There are Christmas decorations for sale in stores and songs on the radio every year before I even get my haphazard Halloween costume pulled together. In a country where 71 percent of the population identifies as Christian and their main holiday gets more promo than One Direction, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber combined, I think it’s safe to say there is no ‘War on Christmas.’
But in recent years, certain Christians have really been gung-ho on casting themselves as being oppressed by people who don’t projectile vomit nativity scenes and advent hymns 24/7 from November 1st through December 25th. Part of the problem with this (besides just how ridiculously annoying it can be) is that this mentality has spread beyond merely “protecting” Christmas and has cozied right on up to regular lawmaking.
The most common result of this mentality has been the drafting of bills known as ‘Religious Freedom Bills.’ Under the guise of ‘protecting religious freedoms,’ politicians have drafted and passed laws that essentially parade discrimination around as a first amendment right.
Some ‘Religious Freedom Laws,’ such as Florida’s recently filed HB 401 bill, would allow doctors to refuse treatment, adoption agencies to refuse child placement and would basically grant any business or person license to discriminate against someone–as long as they say doing business with them goes against their religious beliefs.
Hopefully, you have enough logic to understand how completely backwards this kind of law would be. Unfortunately, many lawmakers in this country do not.
Because religious entitlement is alive and well in America, and misinterpreting the first amendment is pretty much all some people do. Although freedom to practice religion is obviously a right guaranteed in the first amendment, so, too, is freedom from religion.
In short, you can practice whatever religion you want, but you can’t enforce your religious beliefs on anyone else or use your religious beliefs to negatively affect the lives of those with whom you don’t agree. This is why separation of church and state is a thing that exists (though some politicians and media pundits clearly still think we’re living in a theocratic country).
America is, in fact, still (mostly) a democratic nation and the Establishment Clause of that oft-abused first amendment staunchly prohibits the government from preferring any one religion over another—Congress literally can’t pass legislation that favors a particular religion.
Yet still the politicians try, because the current societal climate has been primed in such a way that some Christians think they’re owed something–like a Starbucks coffee cup with a greeting specific to their religious holiday on it. To them, I say: Welcome to America, land of the free and home of the people who really need to double-check their Bill of Rights.