Sunday, December 11, 2005

Who's Doing The Preferin' Around Here?

Good short piece takes a look at this question:

[I]t's worth wondering: In a nation founded on religious principles, why should spiritual messages be tailored to the sensitivities of nonbelievers, while sexual messages are not similarly constrained for the sensibilities of traditionalists?

If there's a standard for deciding what content is appropriate for the public square, surely it should be uniformly applied. At the very least, we should rethink a status quo that presumes religious messages will elicit the kind of indignation once reserved for the crude sexual messages that pass without comment (or censure) today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For people acting in their individual capacities, I think it is more common for Christians to say "Merry Christmas" than "Happy Holidays", which is entirely appropriate. The government is theoretically constrained in what it can do -- thus, no endorsement of Christmas over Hanukkah, and no underdressed or suggestively clad models in its publications. That rule governs most of the examples cited in the editorial.

Private industry is not constrained in this way. This seems to be why that parade in Denver bars religious floats. Since the city was presumably helping the Downtown Denver Partnership by closing streets and providing police escort, though, it seems dodgy to me: Government-abetted prohibition of religion is forbidden just as much as government-abetted endorsement of religion. If the city does facilitate the parade and the church were to sue for inclusion, I would expect the church to win. The parade should follow religion-neutral rules for who to allow, such as accepting floats decorated in a way appropriate to celebrating the season. (Thus excluding tacky or anachronistic floats, but giving any religious group the freedom to celebrate their seasonal holy days.)

To the extent that retailers have policies of wishing shoppers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", that is because it probably makes the most sense for their bottom line. The best way to affect the behavior of any person or corporation is to let them know what irks you, and why they should care. When Victoria's Secret offends someone's sensibilities, that someone could start a campaign to boycott the chain. However, this does not always work: A few years back, Southern Baptists tried to boycott Walt Disney because the company provided benefits to same-sex domestic partners, but that seems to have been patched over with no policy change on Disney's part.