John F. Gaski, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is an associate professor at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. His column appears in Indiana newspapers.

As is becoming a tedious ritual at this time every year, our country's legal and political institutions are wrestling with the issue of church-state separation, or at least one highly visible aspect of it. Now this conflict even has a name, "the war against Christmas." In the spirit of the season, I have some questions for those who believe that such subversive enterprises as public nativity scenes, even Christmas trees or the Christmas holiday itself, constitute an intolerable commingling of church and state.  
    
First, the birth of Christ is celebrated as a national holiday, a federal holiday, just like the births of George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. So why is a representation of national honoree Jesus Christ more objectionable than publicly displayed images of Washington and King? Why cannot Christmas displays be interpreted and accepted in terms of their established secular aspect, which is commemoration of a significant historical figure, rather than forcibly construed as official endorsement of a specific religion? Is the federal celebration of protestant minister Martin Luther King's birthday also to be considered a governmental endorsement of the particular religious organizations he represented (including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference)?  
    
Recognition of the civil orientation of the Christmas holiday, and a bit of wisdom and tolerance, would obviate the need for bizarre legal remedies such as the ratio of religious-type icons to the total of non-religious snowmen, snowflakes, and reindeer in a public display. Yes, such formulae actually have been enacted by the courts.  
    
Now we find public schools prohibiting even Frosty the Snowman and candy canes because they are Christmas symbols, therefore construable as religious. A transparent motive is fear of ACLU lawsuit based upon such a chain-of-logic stretch. Our national sanity indeed is being stretched beyond recognition.  
    
It is remarkable how far we have slipped. A generation ago, there was a movement to “put Christ back in Christmas.”  Now such sentiment would be inscrutable to Americans who have only experienced the mania to get Christ out of Christmas. In response, I suggest tautologically:  As long as Christmas is a federally legislated holiday, its elements should not be illegal. 
    
Naturally, the question then becomes whether a national holiday to memorialize the founder of a major religion, Christianity, is constitutionally permissible at all. The fact that liberal extremists pathologically preoccupied with extending the separation doctrine toward maximum intolerance of religion are not crusading for the elimination of Christmas as a legal holiday may reveal the depth of their hypocrisy. The day such advocates recommend the termination of any form of government handout―and a paid holiday certainly qualifies as one ― will, indeed, be the day hell freezes over.  But that day is coming.  

A repressive innovation has been for public institutions such as schools to disallow any reference to the word “Christmas.” Many retailers have been spooked into the same policy, genuflecting to political correctness. Craven local governments have banned the Christmas tree’s proper name, never mind that Christmas is a national, legal holiday. In a bizarre twist, dramatizing their side's incoherence, some jurisdictions do allow, in fact promote, Jewish and Islamic religious symbols ― while the prohibition against Christmas symbols is enforced.

Our country has been so conditioned by this neo-intolerance that a derivative witch hunt against Christianity has taken hold. The logical conclusion to this extreme, if erratic, anti-religion movement is abolitionment of the federal Christmas holiday itself.  

What inevitably looms also is a secularist jihad to remove all religion-tinged symbols from government venues. Images of the Ten Commandments, Moses, and General Washington at prayer will have to be eradicated from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court building, and the Capitol. The congressional chaplain will have to go, along with "In God We Trust" from currency and coinage, surely. To leave no stone unturned, so to speak, the Political Correctness Police ultimately will require all the crosses removed from Arlington National Cemetery. (The previously cited inconsistency suggests that they may experience some dissonance while digging out monuments featuring the Star of David.)  
    
In the meantime, these zealots exercise their obnoxiousness by spoiling the season for those who had appreciated Christmas carols or trees until instructed of their secular heresy. (See the anti-Christmas atheist display officially sanctioned by the Washington State government.) The nativity and carols today, Santa Claus tomorrow. Why? Because the name is derived from Saint Nicholas, of course.  
    
Once Christmas is outlawed, Thanksgiving will be the radical left's next target, given that holiday's explicitly religious origin and concept. Recall that the Easter Bunny has already been targeted in Minnesota!  Really.  
    
To decisively squelch this lunatic fringe, I raise one thought-experiment question the anti-Christmas fanatics haven't considered: Suppose some religious cult decides to worship George Washington.  Will federal, state, and municipal displays of Washington's likeness then be unconstitutional?  Will all official public references to George Washington have to be suppressed? Yes, if one wishes to be consistent. Alternatively, the politically correct resolution might be to balance Washingtonian imagery with the proper proportion of secular iconography like flags, eagles, or dollar signs. To the anti-religionists, I say "checkmate."  
    
Or is this exasperating issue just another manifestation of how the liberal mentality, so typically self-contradictory, is driving this country crazy by inciting irrational, perverse, and downright silly public policies? The perversion, in this case, is to transmogrify the separation doctrine beyond its original meaning. The afore-described conceptual convolution exemplifies a familiar result of liberal policy-making, along with necessitated efforts to disentangle its unintended consequences (per the doctrine of the same name), that is, cleaning up after liberalism's mess. Such has been this nation's unfortunate task for decades, even in the religious realm now.
    
Merry Xmas to all.