No Ban on Christmas
December 20, 2007
An attempt to be respectful of the diverse religious population at Southwestern Oklahoma State University has been misinterpreted as an attempt to ban Christmas on the Weatherford campus.
The rumor of this ban is not true.
The university attempted to prevent the appearance as a state agency of endorsing any particular religion.
Pretty crazy story. I’m not a fan of the big furor of the “War on Christmas” (to me, getting all up in arms about what seasonal greeting one uses is just silly and is missing the whole point of the season for Christians, you know “Peace on earth and Good will to men”), but I also do raise some questions about the high-handed approach of the PC police these days. It seems like the mess at SWOSU (and who is responsible for it, be it State AG Drew Edmondson or the SWOSU administration) is a bit over the top.
I personally believe (as a strong believer in both the free exercise and the establishment clauses of the First Amendment), that SWOSU students and employees should be free to express Christmas greetings in whatever way they see fit, as long as they are doing so individually. If an employer puts a little Christmas tree on their desk or wears a “Merry Christmas” button on their clothes, who cares?
On the hand, I think if the University is speaking institutionally, then it ought to be non-sectarian in its approach. Either do what the USPS does (issue stamps in honor of all of the winter holidays— Christmas, Haunakah, Eid, Kwanza, etc.) or it should just stick to a standard “Have a happy holiday” or “Seasons Greetings”, or heck just leave off the holiday expressions altogether.
More than anything though this story seems rather ridiculous, and it certainly seems like everybody is not giving anybody else the benefit of the doubt or a little bit of charity.
I gotta say though that I find it funny to see SWOSU go overboard on PC-ness yet again.
My own experience at the school was pretty interesting. I was there for my first 3 years of full-time higher education (from 1994-1997) and when I was there it definitely seemed very PC. I of course was conservative back in those days (yes, scary as it was, I was actually the President of the College Republicans by the time I left the school…thankfully I changed my views in the succeeding years) and had the conservative persecution complex (fostered by folks like ISI), but even with those biases considered, I would have to say that the administration was incredibly controlling and for lack of a better word, PC.
One of the best examples was when I wrote a column in the student newspaper about a ballot measure that would cap property tax rates. My column encouraged folks to vote for it (ironically I changed my mind about it by election day, as I began to understand that the measure would kill rural school districts) but the University President at the time (Dr. Joe Anna Hibler) actually tried to censor it, arguing that the newspaper was a state-funded media outlet and as such couldn’t take stands on issue like this. (not true — SCOTUS already made clear the rights of college student newspapers, and besides my column was a representation of my views and not the newspaper’s) Thankfully my faculty adviser stood her ground, but it did show me how paternalistic and controlling SWOSU was. In fact if anything the attempt at censorship by Dr. Hibler made me far more defiant in my future columns.
Dr. Hibler shouldn’t have tried to stop an arrogant underclassman from expressing his half-baked political ideas in a commentary and in trying to do so just gave me more gumption to keep expressing myself. And SWOSU would have been much smarter if instead of an outright Christmas ban had said something like this… “we respect the rights of students and employees to say their holiday greeting of choice etc., but we also should be respectful of other faiths at this time and make it clear that the university does endorse any particular religious sentiment.”