Donald Trump recently declared that under his presidency, people would be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again — a privilege that has never actually been denied by any legislation in modern America. Though Barack Obama wished Americans a Merry Christmas every year (examples from 2016, 2015, and 2014), there is still an impression among some that he was anti-Christmas somehow.
Trump’s declaration of returning “Merry Christmas” was greeted with a mixed response. While some Americans thanked him, others pointed out Obama’s regular Christmas greetings and decried the promise as propaganda.
Now, one state’s governor is drawing similar mixed responses for her Christmas greeting — but it’s not because she said Merry Christmas. In her greeting, on her official government social media, she declared the holiday a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ — as, of course, it is for Christian denominations. In a video message, she further implored her constituents not to forget this as the true meaning of Christmas, adding that this is the bond that holds us all together.
Not all Alabamians appreciated this message, however. Some say it is a message of exclusion, suggesting that it tells those Alabamians who are not Christians that they are not welcome, not included in the society Kay Ivey describes, and not fully accepted in their role as citizens.
Some of Ivey’s social media following was appreciative, with messages like “I really like that someone is focused on the real reason Christmas is even here.”
Others, however, called on Ivey to keep her religious beliefs off of her official government posts, and reminded her of the separation of church and state, or asked if her post was meant to exclude those who celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday.
Meanwhile, some of Governor Ivey’s constituents felt excluded enough by the Christmas post and message to reach out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national organization headquartered in Wisconsin, which litigates on behalf of its members across the country.
In a news release, the FFRF called for Ivey to remove her Christmas message from her social media, and to stop using her official government channels to promote her religious beliefs.
The FFRF reiterated that Ivey’s designation of Christmas as a celebration of her religion could cause a sense of exclusion for some constituents.
“[Ivey’s Christmas post] conveys a message to non-Christians that they are not ‘favored members of the political community,’ to quote a landmark Supreme Court decision. These citizens should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own state because the government they support with their taxes prominently places religious endorsements on its social media page. While many Alabamians may support these religious sentiments, a significant proportion are excluded.”
The organization also affirmed that nothing in law prevents government officials from acknowledging Christmas, or wishing constituents a Merry Christmas, but called Ivey’s greeting an “overly religious homily” that would be outside those bounds.
It wasn’t only the nonreligious who expressed disapproval of Governor Ivey’s Christmas posts. Others expressed an opinion that Republican policies, or support of Roy Moore for the Alabama Senate seat, were inconsistent with Christianity.
Governor Kay Ivey has not yet responded publicly to the criticism of her ‘Merry Christmas’ post. None of her social media posts in the days since Christmas includes any specific religious references, nor does her year-end review video.