On Monday the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty announced the recipient of its lowest honor, the Ebenezer Award, “which is given annually to the most ridiculous affront to Christmas or Hanukkah celebrations.”
For a group that works to “protect the free expression of all faiths,” the fact that this award is limited to Christian and Jewish celebrations is confusing. But December, Ebenezer … I get it.
For months in my weekly religious freedom recaps, I’ve been documenting the kind of “affronts” that might have made good candidates for such an award.
- School districts in Wisconsin and New Jersey were accused of “canceling Christmas” when they threatened to limit or outright ban religious songs at winter concerts.
- The U.S. Navy removed Nativity scenes from Guantanamo Bay’s dining halls after some troops said they improperly promoted Christianity above other faiths.
- Then there was this guy who erected an eight-foot-tall Festivus pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans in the Florida Capitol building. I sure hope he drank all eight feet before getting up the nerve to film himself hurling insults at a Nativity scene (he knows the statues can’t hear him…right?) At least he didn’t actually vandalize the display like these scrooges did in their #WARONCHRISTMAS.
Did the Becket Fund give its lowest honor to any of these groups or individuals? No. They gave it to the Wisconsin Department of Administration for being too inclusive, allowing the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a Winter Solstice nativity scene and yes, a Festivus pole, to share space with more traditional Christmas and Hanukkah displays.
A press release announcing the award says:
“Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re all for free speech. We think everyone should be allowed to speak their mind when the government opens up a forum for speech.
The problem here is that government bureaucrats have forgotten that there is a difference between government speech and private speech. The government is allowed to speak in its own voice and communicate its own message. When it recognizes important aspects of human history or culture, it is not required to include every possible competing message…Wisconsin can recognize Christmas and Hanukkah without also recognizing the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
OK. Wisconsin can do that. Sure. But in giving this award is Becket, an organization that claims to champion religious freedom for all, saying that inclusivity is the most egregious offense in this year’s fabled War on Christmas? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry (or trees to decorate)? If governments erring on the side of inclusivity were really the greatest challenge to religious liberty in America and around the world, I’d resign from my job out of sheer boredom.
The Becket Fund’s Ebenezer Award might make sense if it went to an organization that actively blocked holiday displays. But to give it to the Wisconsin Department of Administration for allowing displays the Becket Fund apparently dislikes is, to put it politely, hella Scroogey.
The press release concludes:
“So this season, we urge government bureaucrats everywhere to grow a spine—and use your voice. The government can recognize the historical, cultural, and religious significance of 2000-year-old events that altered the course of human history, without giving equal time to dripping wads of spaghetti and griping atheists. The Constitution allows it. Common sense requires it.”
This season, I urge the Becket Fund to reassess its priorities.