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             A Message from the Executive Director
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Dear Friends,

When my kids were young, one of the most important rules in our house was the “thank you” rule.

I would venture to guess that your families and mine have this in common. Gratitude is something we learn as we grow, and expressing gratitude is just as important as feeling it.

Of course, in order to say “thank you,” you need to be thanking someone for something. You don’t just sit around alone in your room saying “thank you” to nothing and no one in particular.

Or do you?

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a day set aside for us to give thanks to God for our many blessings. But many secularists and atheists have a problem with this.

You see, as many secular and atheist groups are aggressively arguing for the elimination of religion from the public square, they are taking away the very meaning of days like Thanksgiving.

They are fine with the idea of a day of giving thanks. They just don’t want us to actually thank anyone—especially not God.

Does this sound confusing? Good. It should!

Suppressing the religious nature of holidays, and leaving only meaningless days off work, is a sure way to beat down natural human expression. Religion is part of what gives our country a vibrant, thriving culture.

Years ago, Becket Fund founder Seamus Hasson wrote a brilliant piece about Thanksgiving and why religious holidays are an appropriate and positive piece of American culture. In this week leading up to the day of thanks, please give it a read.

And as you give thanks for your blessings, know that the Becket Fund is thankful for your generosity and support of religious liberty.

              Forgetting the holy; The Feast of the Intransitive Verb
              Published Thursday, November 25, 1999 in The Washington Times
              By Kevin "Seamus" Hasson

Every fourth Thursday in November work and school are canceled so that families can gather together for the day and thank - well, we'll get to just who it is they may be thanking in a minute. They also enjoy good food, good company and good football. The holiday is currently called Thanksgiving, although there is reason to think that may have to change.

Just about every other religious holiday has been stripped of its original meaning and transformed into a more secular version of its former self. Why should Thanksgiving be any different? In Pittsburgh, Christmas and Hanukkah morphed into "Sparkle Season" and then disintegrated further into "Downtown Pittsburgh Sparkles." Public school systems across the country are renaming the Easter Bunny the "Special Bunny." Even Halloween is being transformed out of concern for its rampant religiosity. In many places it is now the "Fall Festival Celebration." Surely Thanksgiving, a state-sanctioned holiday that purports to give the nation a day to thank God, cannot withstand the small, furious army of radical secularists determined to take the "holy" out of our holidays. A day set aside to thank God can hardly be appropriate when the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and even Halloween has become taboo. Something will have to be done.

So I have a modest proposal: Let's practice truth-in-labeling and call the November holiday that was formerly Thanksgiving, "The Feast of the Intransitive Verb." Intransitive verbs, as we all remember from those unpleasant days of diagramming sentences in grammar school, are verbs that do not require an object. Verbs in sentences like "The horse ran" and "The wind blows" are intransitive because the horse doesn't have to run anything or the wind blow anything. They can simply run and blow without any object at all. Well, what about the verb "to thank"? It's supposed to have an object. You can't just sit there and "thank." You have to thank someone. Which is why secularists don't use that word much in late November anymore. Their creed requires them to celebrate the day by being grateful while thanking no one. And it's embarrassing to have to choose between being politically and grammatically correct. So secularists prefer the circumlocution "to give thanks." It doesn't require an object. You can get away with "giving thanks" without having to be grateful to anyone in particular. It's much more comfortable that way. Thank whomever you want. Or, don't thank anyone; it's entirely up to you. Either way you can still "give thanks." That's the beauty of using an intransitive verb; it doesn't need any object.

Of course, once the object of our gratitude is out of the way it's all downhill. The rest of the day is uncommonly easy to secularize. It has none of the outward trappings of a religious holiday. There are no babes in mangers or symbolic candles to remove from courthouse steps. No one is ringing church bells that require silencing or allowing children to hunt for eggs that must be renamed. The staples of Thanksgiving - turkeys, cornucopias and pumpkin pies - in and of themselves present no real threat to the secularist ascendancy. And the football games are an absolute godsend (so to speak) for secularists. After all, the more distracted we all are the easier it is to forget about the one to whom we owe gratitude.

So let's hear it for the Feast of the Intransitive Verb. It's a worthy companion to "Sparkle Season" (formerly known as Christmas), "Special Person Day" (previously St. Valentine's Day), and the "Spring Festival," which was once Easter. Of course, if all this isn't agreeable to you, if it all seems just a little bit extreme, or even if you're just worried that turkey and cranberries may never taste the same again, you could always be a thumb in the eye of the radical secularists. You could insist on thanking God, and not settle for generically "giving thanks." You could tell your neighbors that you're grateful to God for all He's done for you. You could even go so far as to tell your children to do the same - to make sure that amidst all the construction paper turkeys they fashion in school they get the message across that they, too, are thanking God.

Defending the public integrity of our holidays is not just petulance. Cultures are built, and eroded, by a succession of public acts both great and small. Everything from the arts we exhibit to the table manners we display makes a difference in building up or wearing down our culture. Public holiday celebrations are particularly potent engines of culture - which is why the secularists have poured so much energy into changing ours. Pittsburgh's "sparkle season," for example, has done great damage, not only to Christmas in Pennsylvania, but to our culture nationally. But the fight is far from over. So this weekend, enlist in the culture war and thank God.
Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director
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P.S. Seamus wrote his piece 15 years ago, but we’re still seeing this fight happen today. Montgomery County public schools have decided to remove the names of Christian and Jewish holidays from their calendar because the schools do not give days off for Muslim holidays. Creating an inclusive environment doesn’t require schools to rewrite history or eliminate religious references. This doesn’t advance equality or tolerance—all it does is get rid of culture.


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