NH Town Removes Christmas Decorations From Living Tree To 'Remove Religious Overtones'

P. Gardner Goldsmith | December 23, 2020
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CBS Boston recently reported on a “charming” holiday story erupting in Durham, NH, the town that hosts the leviathan of tax-subsidization called the University of New Hampshire. As the Boston TV station notes, because of “complaints” lodged last year, the Durham Town Council decided to remove the colored lights from their living fir tree that has, for years, been the host of said already watered-down “holiday” decorations.

America Now’s Ruth Kamau heard about the story, which seems to have sneaked up on unsuspecting Durham residents this year, and observed:

Previously called the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, the newly named Frost Fest will now be missing the usual annual activity of lighting the Christmas tree, as well as the yearly arrival of Santa Claus in a town fire truck - an activity the Durham children will miss this year.

"Frost Fest." That sounds like some drink you’d grab at a convenience store on a hot August day, not the celebration or acknowledgment of a holiday. But, of course, like hundreds, perhaps thousands, in the U.S., the Durham government already had removed the word “Christmas” and even “holiday” from the event and used the generic “Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony,” which means absolutely zilch.

Still, despite having neutered Christmas and turned it into a generic drug supporting “community” rather than the birth of Christ, through the winter of 2019 into 2020, the town did hold onto Christmas wreaths like Solstice life preservers, hanging them from sidewalk light poles.

Sadly, that, too, has been purged to accommodate the super-secularism of the state.

Even the traditionally placed Christmas wreaths on the Main Street’s lamp posts won’t be seen this year either.

And Kamu explains why the town “Council” took these actions:

According to the Durham Town Councilor Sally Tobias, the name change of the event had to take place this year after a controversy occurred during last year’s holiday season.

And the prohibition against showing any sign of holiness for the HOLidays extends to Judaism as well, hitting local Rabbi Berel Slavaticki, who had stood strong for the presence of religious decorations.

He also requested the town to display a Menorah during the eight days of Hanukkah last year but his request was promptly rejected.

Of course it was. But Rabbi Slavaticki was not cowed -- about the Menorah, or the Christmas lights -- saying,

To stop cultures and faiths from practicing publicly would be very un-American. I think that’s the beauty of our country.

Sadly, Rabbi Slavaticki’s view runs counter to contemporary nihilistic postmodernism and its materialist concept that there is nothing beyond the physical world. Don’t bother asking a materialist how any exploration of the origin of the material world must, by its nature, be an exploration of the META-physical (since the physical world logically cannot create itself) -- an exploration that delivers many explorers to God. Don’t bother noting the secular silliness of reducing a metaphysical celebration of the King of Kings to a cheery contemporary PR campaign applauding FROST. Just put on your mask, stare at the concrete, and join arms in celebration of “community”, as if you’re an extra in a slo-mo public service TV commercial or a Soma drug ad.

Generic humanity, at its best.

And, God forbid people gather outside to celebrate Christ. In my town, the “authorities” opted NOT to hold their renamed, watered-down “Tree Lighting Ceremony” at a specific time, but to light the tree at an “unannounced” time, so that no one would actually be there. Because of their fear of COVID19, the town “authorities” tried to trick those who might gather for the lighting of the “festive tree” and sing Christmas carols -- those who might retain tiny vestiges of their heritage and want to enjoy the holiday with friends they respect as fellow creations of the verboten God.

And it's key to understand that this descent in my village, as well as in Durham, NH, is not going to stop any time soon.

Rabbi Slavaticki’s sentiment about being able to practice religion in the public arena is noble and contains echoes of the Founders, but, sadly, it runs, headlong, into two unavoidable realities about the Constitution and about the functional problem of any tax-funded system -- problems that partially give rise to these holiday clampdowns.

On the constitutional side, despite the noble sentiments about the United States being the “land of the free”, the First Amendment actually doesn’t insure the freedom of religion. It insures that the federal government -- Congress -- shall make no law infringing on the right of religious exercise or speech or of the press. Until the late 1800s in the US, many states and localities had speech codes and also subsidized religious institutions and religious schools. William Penn founded Pennsylvania as a religious colony, and state-funded religious schools were prevalent there long after the adoption of the Constitution. As a result, the corollary of the constitutional allowance for states and localities to SPONSOR religious entities inspires consideration that states or localities might also write laws INFRINGING on religious expressions in public. 

In practice, a judicial tradition called the “Incorporation Doctrine,” promulgated by many judges since the writing of the Fourteenth Amendment, stipulates that states will comply by the First Amendment because, as their mythology falsely claims, the Fourteenth Amendment required the states to adopt all of the Bill of Rights into their own constitutions.

This never happened. States did not do that, and even if they had, adoption of the first Amendment would mean that the states adopted a statement only specifying Congress in it, so we’d be right back where we started, with the states still retaining the power to infringe on religion and speech. As much as pro-liberty “constitutionalists” might WANT free speech everywhere, any consistent  constitutionalist ought to respect these facts. Then, they have to check in each of their states to see if their original state constitutions protect the freedom of religion and speech. At that point, if those “rule books” do, the promoters of the free practice of religion in the local public square have very solid cases.

Second, there’s the political-economics of it all, and this touches on the unethical nature governments. As I’ve discussed at MRCTV, one of the major problems of any state (i.e. polis, or government) system is what economists call The Tragedy of the Commons, and it manifests itself in two ways.

First, if something is “commonly held,” rather than privately owned, the people who like that resource will quickly over-utilize it, rather than husband it and care for it. As a result, western forestland “owned” by the feds and then rented to logging corporations runs the risk of strip-cutting without replanting. Since the logging corporations have no long-term property/profit/loss incentives to care for the resource, they take what they can get and get out. In areas where a lot of people are given access to a “common” resource, it’s first-come, first-take, and the resources rapidly are depleted.

The second key problem with government “Tragedy of the Commons” is that commonly-held things create dissent and disagreement over how those “things” will be used. All folks paying taxes justifiably feel that they have a right to some say over how their taxes will be used, and so people argue and fight over things like public parks, roads, parades, how public schools will be run, and on and on.

The problem in Durham and other polises where agents of government are banning the presence of God from the public square is that the public square places itself above God, by its nature. This has been the perennial, fundamental question of Judeo-Christians since the time of Moses, since the time of Adam and Eve. The questions are about free will, what allows for it, and what does not, and about who is the King.

In the materialist world, no matter how many written rules men create to put so-called “checks” on the state, men still are the rule-writers, and the state is the master.

In the religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity, God gives each of us free will, and, as Jefferson said, it is our duty to respect God by disobeying unjust laws, even to the point of rebellion.

We’ll see whether people sneak into the night to decorate the Durham “Frost Festival” tree, but a little rebellion goes a long way in helping educate future generations about God-given rights.

And a little education goes a long way in helping fuel more rebellion.