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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Santa the First Amendment-defying Terrorist 

Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation, is doing his part to reduce Santa's bureaucratic paperwork load:

[I]magine for a minute the sheer size and agonizing detail of the flight plan that Kriss Kringle, aka Santa Claus, would file before embarking on his trip each Christmas Eve. In the past, Santa had been required by the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain a special flight certificate and specify each rooftop he'd visit and in what order. The flight plan and other paperwork were just more bureaucratic details for a cadre of busy elves to add to their preflight checklists.

So in an effort to make Santa's job easier, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta signed an Open Skies Agreement with the North Pole in Washington today. The North Pole, represented at a press conference by Santa himself, became the 75th territory to have an Open Skies agreement with the United States but the first governed by elves.

Well, the U.S. will of course just let anybody come into the country. Disneyland - at least in the Einser era - was more selective:

Sadly, Santa has been barred from landing near Disneyland. Apparently homeland security won't accept his visa. Actually, this is an annual holiday event for a local shopping mall that has the misfortune of being too close to Disneyland. Santa won't be allowed to skydive in as that would violate Disneyland's no-fly zone.

Of course, Mineta's action isn't only dangerous, it's probably also unconstitutional. From 1998:

Officials in Somerset, Massachusetts announced last night that they will defy a federal court order, and proceed with plans to erect a Christian nativity scene in front of the Town Hall. This follows a victory earlier this week by American Atheists Regional Director Gil Lawrence Amancio, who with the help of the ACLU successfully challenged the display as an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity, and a violation of the First Amendment....

Knowing that they have lost a key battle to maintain the nativity scene, though, the Selectmen now propose to "secularize" the Somerset religious display by the addition of non-religious holiday symbols. Town leaders announced that they would be relocating an enormous 45-foot high Santa Claus from the Somerset Fire Department building to the Town Hall -- a distance of approximately a mile, according to AA Regional Director Gil Amancio. Somerset will also be using a Jewish menorah about 8-feet in height, as well as several more Christmas trees and strings of colored lights in hopes of rendering the nativity capable of passing constitutional muster.

"They're hoping that Santa Clause and the other items will detract from the 'centrality' of the nativity scene so that they can sneak it under the wire of the First Amendment," observed Mr. Amancio. "This is just another ploy to try and 'save the creche' and continue to make what is clearly a religious statement."

Now I'll grant that from my theistic perspective, Santa Claus represents everything that is wrong about Christmas - the Santa that lures you to shop is the most anti-religious element there is. Yet to some, Santa is an offensive religious symbol. From 2000:

Santa Claus has been banned from Seattle Public School holiday celebrations, according to Schools General Council Mark Green....

"We can't have any religious symbols in the schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state. We allow Christmas trees, because they're, well, just trees. But Santa Claus is based on the Christian Saint Nicholas, and is a large part of the largely Christian religious celebration."

So I guess we need to impeach Bush for violating the First Amendment.

Incidentally, the Mineta press release is here.

DOT 184-05
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Contact: Brian Turmail
Tel.: (202) 366-4570

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta And North Pole’s
Kris Kringle Sign Open Skies Agreement

Agreement Gives Santa Greater Access to Rooftops of Good Kids Everywhere

Just in time for Christmas, Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and the North Pole’s Kris Kringle, a.k.a. Santa Claus, signed an Open Skies aviation agreement in Washington, D.C. today, giving Santa and his team of reindeer greater access to the rooftops of good kids everywhere.

For years, Santa had been required to make an annual request to the Secretary of Transportation for a special flight certificate in order to deliver his Christmas goodies. With this new agreement, it will be easier for Santa to finish his job all in one night.

“Santa can now focus on making his list and checking it twice, without the hassle of government paperwork,” said Secretary Mineta. “Thanks to this agreement, the only time he needs to worry about Red Tape is if he wants to use it to wrap presents.”

The Open Skies agreement signed by Secretary Mineta and Santa Claus noted Santa’s safe and efficient toy delivery operation that enables him to bring joy to millions of children in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories, all without impact to air traffic carrying travelers to their holiday destinations.

“Now it’s just HO HO HO and off I go,” exclaimed the Jolly Old Elf. “The reindeer and I look forward to checking this item off of our list for good,” he said.

Mineta said the decision was helped by a flood of public comments offered by Santa advocates from all over the nation. Thousands of letters were sent to the Department of Transportation and to the North Pole encouraging each party to complete these important negotiations before Santa’s yearly trip, he said.

“Santa’s Elves are tough negotiators,” Mineta noted. “But, in the end, we were able to arrive at an agreement that will benefit children of all ages.”


From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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