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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2009 / 7 Teves 5770

Season's Greetings — and We'll See You in Court, or: The Christmas Wars

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It just wouldn't be the holiday season without the annual squabble over Christmas decorations in public places. It's as expected as "The Little Drummer Boy." And about as monotonous. But tradition must be observed.


Here in little old Little Rock, and maybe in your town, every course was served in its proper order, much like a proper holiday meal. From the first lawyer-letter to the official response to the preliminary injunction, all rites were observed in full. There may even be appellate proceedings for dessert.


This year's legal formalities did seem less acrimonious than usual. Sure, the lawyers had a heated exchange or two for show. And some soreheads of equal but opposite opinions may still be fuming. But the general outrage didn't seem as pronounced this year. What was Caesar's was rendered unto Caesar in better spirits than usual. Maybe there's something to this Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men thing after all.


The upshot: The atheists got to erect their little booth on the grounds of the Arkansas state Capitol right behind the official nativity scene. And the only thing offended by the proximity was good taste. Maybe it was inevitable. Things do tend to get out of hand on festive occasions, as at office Christmas parties.


The folks in charge of maintaining the grounds at the Capitol made their big mistake when they forgot about that quaint old American practice called the separation of church and state. Instead of giving the hazy line between the two a wide berth, they concluded it would be permissible to put up a religious display on public property, which the state Capitol most certainly is.


Welcome as the Holy Family are, they should have been directed to the nearest private inn instead, or even offered home hospitality. Instead, they were treated as wards of the state. Surely a better solution to this seasonal wrangle could have been found than to put them in public housing.


For as soon as the nativity scene was in place, legally the Capitol grounds became an open forum for the expression of beliefs about religion pro and con. From that moment on, a court had little choice but to give the Church of Militant Atheism its say, too. Along with anybody else who wanted to get in on the act.


Next the Zoroastrians? And what about the pagans? They produced some great art. Old Praxilites was no slacker back in Athens' heyday. And did anyone remember to invite Baal? Or does he go by the name of Success now? Come one, come all! For the state isn't allowed to discriminate in these matters once it opens its grounds to one faith; then public accommodations must be open to all the public.


It's enough to make a fellow agnostic about the value of any and all such displays in the public square, even and especially if they're all-inclusive. The result tends to be the esthetic equivalent of talk radio — loud, jumbled and argumentative.

Letter from JWR publisher


If this garish trend continues, our Capitol grounds will start looking like one of those overcrowded bumper stickers you see that display half a dozen emblems of the world's most prominent creeds, all lined up in a row and looking as if each were trying to elbow the other out of the picture. A perfectly blank bumper sticker, like a ball cap with no emblem on it, would be a decided improvement. Oh, for a swath of green lawn with not a thing on it but grass and trees. What better testament to Nature and Nature's G0d?


How much trouble would it have been to set up the nativity scene on indisputably private property nearby, and so please both those who enjoy decorous decorations (count me in!) and those who know church and state should be kept as safely separated as little children in the back seat of the family car.


Let those two not always fraternal twins, Church and State, start squabbling and . . . look out! Or as Finley Peter Dunne's irrepressible Irish barkeep, Mister Dooley, would say, and did: "Religion is a quare thing. Be itself it's all right. But sprinkle a little pollytiks into it and dinnymit is bran flour compared with it. Alone it prepares a man for a better life. Combined with pollytiks it hurries him to it."


Though he lacked the stage Irish dialect, Alexis de Tocqueville was at least as perspicacious as Mister Dooley. When he made his grand American tour in the 1830s, our distinguished visitor could not help but notice the contrast between this happy republic and the bitterly divided one he'd left behind in France. One of the reasons M. de Tocqueville cited for that contrast was that here, where the spirit of liberty and that of faith are kept separate, both are free to blossom, even intertwine and support each other. But in Europe, where churches tend to be ether established or persecuted by the state, faith and liberty become bitter antagonists, each seeking to dominate the other. Good fences make good republics, too.


To vastly oversimplify the constitutional law that governs such controversies, the state is free to display sacred symbols—but only if they are no longer sacred. That is, if the Holy Family or Chanukah menorah or your symbol of choice has been desanctified. Then it becomes constitutionally kosher for the state to exhibit it. As part of an educational exhibit, for example.


It helps if the creche is surrounded by symbols of other faiths, or by just enough Santas and candy canes, elves and reindeer to disguise its spiritual significance. That way, the theory goes, the state isn't establishing a religion but putting on an educational exhibit, or maybe just having some winter-holiday fun, like a child playing with the altarpieces.


The rule of thumb in these matters is that the less tasteful the display, the more constitutional. Which is how We the long-suffering People wind up with those awful mix-and-match Christmas exhibitions that cover every holiday at the winter solstice from Chanukah to Kwanzaa. That kind of unholy spectacle can be expected whenever the always aggrandizing State lays its hands on the sacred for its own purposes — whether educational, cultural, political, historical, commercial or all of the above.


Once the law rather than faith becomes the determining factor in such displays, any hope of authentic devotion is lost. Which is why the transient state should be told to keep its hands off the permanent things. In place of the real thing, a tepid civil religion has grown up for state occasions. And that's about as close as the state should be allowed to come to the holy. Any closer and the poor thing is out of its depths — but deep into mischief.


There is no more efficient force in the world than good will. But instead, Americans resort to courts. Ours is, has been, and probably always will be a highly litigious society. It seems to come with the rule of law, which has its compensating benefits. So many that it's well worth the occasional dispute over just when a Christmas display on state property becomes an establishment of religion. It's not always easy to tell, which is why public officials would be wise to build a fence around the law rather than press right up against the line between church and state. The most fitting display this time of year might be a little self-restraint.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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