Utah state Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan
A state senator in Utah is drafting a resolution to encourage retailers to stop using nebulous phrases like “Happy holidays” and “Season’s greetings” and get back to what shops used to say in December: “Merry Christmas.”
Utah state Sen. Chris Buttars told Salt Lake City’s Deseret News that he’s drafting the non-binding resolution because several employees at a retailer told him they were instructed not to say “Merry Christmas” to customers.
“I’m sick of the Christmas wars,” Buttars told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We’re a Christian nation and ought to use the word.”
Buttars’ opinion that Americans need to resume saying “Merry Christmas” is shared by many.
Last month, a Wall Street Journal editorial by Daniel Henninger warned that the “desacralized ‘holidays’” is just another example of America losing its religion and, therefore, losing the moral virtues of responsibility, restraint and remorse that enable our country’s capitalist economy to flourish.
“The steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous,” writes Henninger. “A nation whose people can’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.”
In Utah, other legislators have been hesitant to say that they will vote for Buttars’ resolution, reserving their opinions until they see its final wording. Several, however, have expressed support for the general idea.
“I don’t find it offensive when someone says ‘Happy Holidays,’” state Sen. Curt Bramble told the Tribune. “What is offensive is if we’re embarrassed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’”
Utah Senate President-elect Michael Waddoups said a resolution lacking the impact of law is really just a message being sent, but, he added, “Sometimes you have to send a message.”
Salt Lake City civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, however, warned Buttars that asking for “Merry Christmas” is fine, but basing the resolution on America being a Christian nation was taking it too far.
“If [Buttars] wants people to say ‘Merry Christmas’ because it’s the Christian thing to do,” Barnard told the Tribune, “then it becomes a violation of First Amendment rights.”
Implementing the resolution would also be challenging, said Jim Olsen, president of the 350-member Utah Retail Merchants Association.
“A number of our members are national in nature and their ads, signage and promotions are done at a national level,” Olsen told the Tribune. “Any time we have states encouraging us to deviate from those national programs, it begins to cause problems.”
Buttars, however, told the Deseret News he plans to write the resolution in such a way that retailers have flexibility in expressing their support for Christmas, whether in advertising, store decorations or simply employee greetings, which don’t come from national offices.
Buttars also disagrees with Barnard’s contention that basing his argument on America’s religious heritage is taking anything too far, telling the News that the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday because the United States is a Christian nation.
“We started that way and we still are,” the senator said.