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Christmas brings up the old argument between freedom of speech vs. freedom of (or from) religion

As a news photographer, I’ve had to cover local protests like this in the past. Shooting and editing pictures of events that happen over and over usually gets me thinking about the issues beneath those events.

Religious displays on public property have been argued over for decades. The establishment clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” However, it also says Congress can’t impede the free exercise of religion, nor can it infringe on the freedom of speech. So, understandably there is considerable confusion around this issue.

Covering Christmas manger stories always gets me thinking about the role of government, free speech and religion. It makes me wonder whether Christmas should be an officially recognized federal holiday or simply a religious holiday. At a time when city, county, state and federal budgets are painfully tight, I wonder if we’re using up precious resources to continue this argument year after year.

What do you think? Should Christmas be a federal holiday? Should religious displays be allowed on public property? If allowed, should we make distinctions between religions? If Christians can set up a Jesus manger on public property, can a coven perform Wiccan rituals on the steps of city hall? Am I favoring a religion if I participate in a Christmas giving tree, or am I helping a family during what would otherwise be a terribly painful morning on December 25th?

Related story: In 'The War on Christmas,' Christmas is winning