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Jews On First!

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Christian Nationalists Win Ideological Victory in Congress with Christmas resolution

Huge majority, Jews included, pass resolution suggesting Christian founding of nation

by, December 20, 2007

   Tally of Votes on H. Res. 847
YeasNaysPresentNot Voting

Congressional Democrats -- including most Jewish Democrats -- voted for a resolution last week that "acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States." We expect the Christian right to cite that language in their frequent claims that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

372 members of Congress voted for the resolution, House Res. 847, "Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith." Only nine members voted "no." Ten members voted "present," effectively abstaining from the December 11th vote.

Text of House Resolution 847

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its Judeo-Christian roots;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

Rep. Frank: Congress Should not pronounce on religion
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told JewsOnFirst that many members would have voted against the measure if the vote had been by secret ballot.

Most Democrats felt compelled to vote for the measure because they supported recent resolutions acknowledging the Muslim fast of Ramadan and Diwali, a Hindu festival.

A spokesman for Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat who has been a leader in challenging religious coercion in the military by fundamentalist Christian evangelicals, cited the two earlier resolutions as the reason Israel voted "yes" on H. Res. 847.

Rep. Frank, who voted "present" on the Christmas resolution, said this week that he should have done the same on the Ramadan resolution. "Congress shouldn't be pronouncing on religion," he said in a telephone interview with JewsOnFirst. Frank said that Congress' responsibility was protecting the right to practice religion.

On December 18th Frank made a statement on the House floor about the two votes. He said: "I decided to vote 'present' [on the Christmas resolution] because it made some controversial statements about the constitutional history of the United States and the role of Christianity in that."

In his statement Frank said that, in retrospect, he wished he had abstained on the Ramadan bill as well. He said: "I should have voted 'present' on both, not out of any disrespect for either religion, but out of respect for a system of democratic governance in which we politicians don't decide what is or isn't good religion. "

The resolution's sponsor, Iowa Republican Steve King, lost no time in attacking the Democrats who voted "present" rather than for his measure. Appearing on a Fox news channel, King called them part of "an assault on Christianity in America." He said: "I would like to know how they can vote yes on Ramadan, yes on the Indian religions but no on Christianity."

Those who voted "no"
Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, a Jewish Democrat who voted against the bill did not return a phone call requesting comment. He is quoted in a JTA report about the resolution saying that "Congress has better things to do than to infringe upon the separation of church and state."

Ackerman said that, unlike H.Res. 847, the Ramadan and Diwali measures "stayed away from all the religiosity and innuendo that a specific religion and not freedom of religion was a founding principle of America."

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who voted no, told a Florida newspaper that the resolution was “not about supporting Christmas. It was another sad attempt by conservative Republicans to skew the line between Church and State and impose their belief that America is a Christian nation.” The paper said he was being criticized for his vote.

Also voting "no" were Democrats Barbara Lee, Pete Stark and Lynn Woolsey of California, Diana DeGette of Colorado, Yvette Clarke of New York, Jim McDermott of Washington, and Bobby Scott of Virginia. Republican Mike Pence of Indiana also voted "no."

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri made a statement in the Congressional Record of December 11th (page H15275) that he would have voted "no" had he not missed the vote.

The resolution came during the Christian right's annual campaign against what it styles the "war against Christmas." The focus is primarly on intimidating businesses which greet customers with the term Happy Holidays, rather than Merry Christmas, because the former is more inclusive.

You'll find links to reports on this year's "war" over Christmas here.

House of Representatives Resolution 847, Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith

Congressional Record, Page H15233 , December 11, 2007

Text of H. Res. 847 as it was read on the House floor on December 11th, followed by transcript of the short debate that followed. Click here.

For the text of H. Res. 847, as it is enrolled, please click here.

How members of Congress voted on House Resolution 847

Final Vote Results For Roll Call 1143

Please click here to see who voted how on the Christmas resolution.

Rep. Barney Frank explains vote on Christmas resolution

Page H16801, Congressional Record, December 18, 2007

A week after the vote Rep. Frank, who spoke to for this report, went to the House floor to explain his "present" vote and say he also should have voted "present" on an earlier resolution regarding Ramadan. Click here.

Christmas resolution in U.S. Congress renews debate over 'Christian nation'

Beth Young, JTA, December 19, 2007

Washington (JTA) -- A seemingly benign U.S. congressional resolution supporting Christmas has become the latest fodder in the debate over whether America is a "Christian nation."

Nearly all the members of the House of Representatives, including a majority of Jewish members, voted for the Dec. 11 resolution acknowledging the celebration of Christmas and the role Christians have played in U.S. history.

But the resolution's author, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), has since lashed out at the nine "liberal Democrats" who voted against the resolution and questioned how they had supported a different resolution supporting Ramadan. Continue

Congressman King critical of House members who failed to support Christmas resolution

By O.Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa, December 12, 2007. Full text

Congressman Steve King is railing against a few members of the U.S. House who failed to support his congressional resolution honoring Christmas. King's resolution passed overwhelmingly, but 10 of the four-hundred-35 members of congress voted present rather than "yes" and nine others voted "no."

King says most of them had voted "yes" on resolutions honoring the major holidays of other religions, like Islam's Ramadan. "We had ten people that voted present on this resolution last night and nine of them were those who voted for those other resolutions," King said this morning on the Fox News Channel.

There was no debate of King's resolution and King himself wasn't there to vote "yes" as he was stranded in Iowa because of the weather. Yet King says those in congress who were there and voted "no" are part of an "assault on Christianity in America."

"I would be very interested in their rationale," King said of those who did not support his Christmas resolution. "I would like to know how they can vote yes on Ramadan, yes on the Indian religions but no on Christianity."

Some have suggested the small group of Democrats voted "no" because they considered voting on a resolution honoring Christmas and Christianity frivolous compared to the other issues Congress must deal with before year's end. Click here.

House approves Christmas resolution; 9 opposed

by Tom Strode, Baptist Press, December 13, 2007

WASHINGTON (BP)--The House of Representatives approved a resolution Dec. 11 acknowledging the significance of Christmas and Christianity.

The roll call was 372-9 for passage. The resolution's sponsor expressed astonishment over the "no" votes. Rep. Steve King, R.-Iowa, said he could not understand how members of Congress could vote against the measure after the House approved without opposition similar resolutions honoring observances of Islam and Hinduism.

Among its resolutions, King's measure recognized Christianity as "one of the great religions of the world," expressed support for Christians in this country and other countries, acknowledged the "international religious and historical significance of Christmas and the Christian faith" and renounced persecution against Christians in this country and around the world. Continue.

McDermott: Christmas vote was jab at bill's GOP sponsor
Iowa's Steve King blocked children's insurance increase

By John Iwasaki, Seattle Post Intelligencer, December 13, 2007

For Rep. Jim McDermott, the season surrounding Dec. 25 should be less about politics and more about innocence.

"Christmas is really about children," he said Thursday. "A children's holiday, if you will."

And that helps explain why the Washington Democrat recently voted against a House resolution to recognize the importance of Christmas and Christianity. Continue.

Playing the Christmas Card

By Tobin Harshaw, The Opinionator Blog, New York Times, December 13, 2007, 9:35 am

Congress got in the the holiday spirit yesterday, and the right-wingers are taking down names. “Democrats who supported a House resolution to honor Ramadan voted against a similar resolution to honor Christmas and Christianity last night,” writes Amanda Carpenter at Town Hall. “18 Democrats voted ‘nay’ or ‘present’ on a resolution to ‘recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.’ An eagle-eyed Republican House staffer points out that those same members, with one exception, voted to ‘recognize the commencement of Ramadan,’ a Muslim religious observance in October.”

According to the folks at Think Progress, the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa), had this to say on CNN: “I recognized that we’re a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and we’re coming up to Christmastime. … It’s time we stood up and said so, and said to the rest of America, Be who you are and be confident. And let’s worship Christ and let’s celebrate Christmas for the right reasons.” Continue.

Hastings: Humbug to Christmas resolution

By George Bennett, The Florida Politics Blog, Palm Beach Post, December 13, 2007

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, is taking some heat in the conservative blogosphere for being one of only nine House members to vote against a resolution “recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.”

The resolution, sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, passed Tuesday on a 372-9 vote, with 10 members voting “present” and 40 not voting.

Hastings said the resolution was “not about supporting Christmas. It was another sad attempt by conservative Republicans to skew the line between Church and State and impose their belief that America is a Christian nation.” Continue.

King Urges Speaker Pelosi to Allow a Resolution to Honor Christmas

From the website of Rep. Steve King, December 7, 2007

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Steve King submitted a bill to recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. The King Christmas Resolution, or H. Res. 847, follows two similar bills honoring both the Hindu and the Islamic religions and their respective holidays.

“Over three-fourths of Americans identify themselves as Christians, and one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar is Christmas. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The day is observed by Christians and non-Christians alike in the United States and the rest of the world as a time to serve others,” said Congressman King. Continue.