Thursday, December 21, 2000

Christmas survives lawyer's challenge

The Associated Press

        A federal appeals court says Christmas can continue to be a federal holiday in the United States.

        The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit challenging the government's observance of Christmas as a legal holiday.

        Richard Ganulin, an attorney who filed the lawsuit on his own behalf, said the government illegally endorsed a Christian religious occasion by making Christmas a holiday. He said Wednesday that he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court's decision.

        He said he is Jewish and does not celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ or the arrival of Santa Claus. The government's endorsement of Christmas as a holiday makes people like himself appear to be outsiders, Mr. Ganulin said.

        “A person's set of beliefs establishes their identity,” Mr. Ganulin said. “These beliefs contradict my identity.”

        Mr. Ganulin said the Christmas holiday violated both the Constitution's prohibition against government establishment of religion and his constitutional rights to equal protection of law and freedom of association.

        Appeals judges Boyce Martin Jr., Ralph Guy Jr. and R. Guy Cole Jr. unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling against Mr. Ganulin. They agreed with U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott's December 1999 ruling that Mr. Ganulin failed to prove Congress acted illegally by establishing the Christmas holiday.

        The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a private organization that represented three federal employees in opposing Mr. Ganulin's argument, said the appeals court had ruled “just in the "Nick' of time.”

        “The Supreme Court has long recognized that religion is part of the fabric of our society and culture, and government need not pretend otherwise,” said Roman Storzer, a lawyer for the Becket Fund in Washington.

        Judge Martin said while hearing Mr. Ganulin's arguments on Dec. 7 that philosophical or religious objections aren't enough to support a lawsuit to halt the Christmas holiday observance. He challenged Mr. Ganulin's arguments that the holiday could be harmful to nonbelievers.

        Mr. Ganulin is an assistant city solicitor for Cincinnati, but filed his lawsuit as a private citizen.

        Government lawyers defending the holiday said courts repeatedly have recognized secular aspects of Christmas, including holly, ivy, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, snowmen, jingling bells and presents on Christmas morning.


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