At a recent “Thank You Tour” stop, President-elect Donald Trump boldly proclaimed that “We’re gonna start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” When people engage in this ridiculous conspiracy that Christmas is being taken away in the United States, a common defense (one used by people outside Trump Tower in recent days) is that this country was founded on the basis of Christian influence.
That is empirically incorrect. The Founding Fathers were quite wary of merging religion and government. The phrase “separation of church and state” was in fact coined by Thomas Jefferson, who realized its importance. John Adams explicitly stated that the government of the United States was “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and James Madison were all noted deists, meaning they did not subscribe to any organized religion.
This is not a partisan or ideological issue; it is merely historical fact. We need to be respectful of what anyone is celebrating this time of year, just as the Founding Fathers would have wanted. Saying “Merry Christmas” is, of course, fine, but remember that no one is trying to take it away from anyone.
Matt Chielpegian, Fresno