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Turning the Marines into Missionaries
Having the Marines pass out Jesus Dolls at Christmas violates the First Amendment—and common sense.

[November 20, 2006]

By Nicholas Provenzo
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism

The Marines have earned a reputation for standing firm, even when attacked on all sides. Apparently, this legacy no longer applies when the weapon used against them is a talking Jesus doll.

First, some context. For many years now, Christian activists have been fighting to regain Christmas, or more specifically, fighting against anyone who disagrees with them over how Christmas is to be celebrated. Rather ironically, these Christian activists have framed the debate as a war against them.

For example, if you run a business and you instruct your employees to wish your customers a "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" on the grounds that not all your customers are Christians, you are guilty of attacking all that these Christians hold dear. If you think that nativity crèches look great on private property, but violate the First Amendment when placed upon the courthouse lawn, you too are attacking these Christians.

Nether of the above scenarios impacts the ability of Christians to celebrate Christmas as they see fit-on their own property and within their own institutions. Yet what a Christian does in privacy is not the concern of the Christmas crusaders—it is what you and I do in our privacy, or what our public institutions do (institutions that by definition must represent all of us) that is the object of their crusade.

And now we come to our talking Jesus doll. The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. manufactures a Jesus doll that is less a toy and more a tool with which to preach Christianity to children. For example, the toy quotes the Holy Bible with statements like "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." The doll's manufacturer offered to donate 4,000 of its dolls to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, founded by the Marines in 1947 to ensure that needy children received some toys for Christmas.

The foundation, supported today by the Marine Corps Reserves as part of its official mission, opted to refuse the Jesus dolls on the grounds that the Marines don't profess one faith over another, and that the doll was an inappropriate gift for a non-Christian family. And that's when all hell broke lose.

In response to its decision, the foundation was peppered with so many calls of Christian outrage that The Washington Post reports that it became impossible for the foundation to perform its mission-which is simply to give some hard-luck kids something nice to play with on Christmas Day. Caving in to the pressure, the foundation reversed itself and agreed to accept the Jesus dolls, and will simply have to make an extra effort in addition to its already large commitments to ensure that these dolls don't go to families that don't want them.

How absolutely obnoxious—but typical of people who think they have the right to force their faith down the rest of our throats and that the government should help them do it. Never mind that our government must remain secular and be guided only by reason if it is to properly fulfill its role of protecting our individual freedoms. And never mind that there is no shortage of religious charities that would have been more than happy to offer scripture-quoting Jesus dolls to willing families. That apparently is not enough for the Christian activists who think that they need to hijack our government in order to deliver their Christmas message.

The last insult is that the Marines are at the heart of a great struggle overseas to keep America free from those who think that they have the right to impose their religious creed upon us by force. It is appalling that the Marines' valor and courage on the battlefield is being twisted by people back home who seek the same ultimate ends as the enemy, only substituting their religious creed for his.

"To men of goodwill, peace" it is not.

Nicholas Provenzo is chairman of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism (www.capitalismcenter.org), a public policy institute that applies Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to cultural and legal questions.


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