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On Good Texas Manners, The Law and Merry Christmas

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And the winner is … Star-Telegram op-ed columnist Richard Greene.

He is the first, at least the first person that I read, who waded into the now yearly debate of saying “Happy Holidays” versus saying “Merry Christmas. It ran under the headline of “Why just say ‘happy holidays’ if your joy is for Christ’s birth?” And he asked a question that, undoubtedly, will be debated on Fox News and CNN and The Daily Show and on and on and on.

Talking points surely will mimic Greene’s sentiments:
How come the majority—2 billion Christians around the world, nearly a third of the global population—has to dial back true expressions of faith?

Why does Congress open with a prayer but a Christmas tree on the courthouse lawn is wrong?

Should religious expressions be limited to places of worship?

We have these debates every year with little settled. What strikes me, though, is how this debate so often is framed as being about freedom of religion yet very little regard is taken for the religious freedom of the one uttering the greeting—the employee.

Over the past few years, I have read with interest about stores moving away from using “Merry Christmas” and instead using “Happy Holidays.” While stores have the right to choose how they want to advertise and to whom they want to appeal, do they have the right to prohibit employees from greeting customers and co-workers with “Merry Christmas”?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides protection to an employee’s religion. It prohibits an employer from treating an employee differently because of his/her religious beliefs. Under most circumstances, Title VII also requires employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

Prohibiting employees from saying “Merry Christmas” or requiring employees to say “Happy Holidays” may violate federal and state law if doing so directly conflicts with the employees sincerely held religious beliefs.

So the answer of how to bring “Merry Christmas” rather than say “Happy Holidays” back is simple. The previously mentioned 2 billion need only to say it, to take advantage of their rights and allow room for others to do likewise. Real progress is when we allow room for individuals to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Hannukah” and feel comfortable doing likewise.

It is not only good Texas manners. It is the law.

Merry Christmas from me to you,

LLH

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