5 things customers say during the holidays – and what they really mean

It’s that time of year when you follow the herd to the mall and gorge on the displays.

That’s right, I’m talking about the irrational holiday shopping season. Think I’m overstating this? The authoritative National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts a 3.9 percent rise in holiday sales this year, meaning that collectively, Americans will buy $602 billion worth of gifts before the end of this year.

The average holiday shopper will drop $737 on gifts, décor and greeting cards, according to the NRF. That’s some serious gorging!

This year, I’m not going to tell you to avoid the frenzy. (What kind of Scrooge would I be?) Instead, as a service to consumers, let me help you understand what the other members of the swarm actually mean when they talk amongst themselves.

A few weeks ago, I helped you decode customer service-speak — the language employees use when they address you. But consumers also have a peculiar lexicon, and never more peculiar than during the High Holy Days of Consumerism.

“Excuse me!”
I think we all know what a genuine “excuse me” sounds like when another shopper accidentally bumps into you or cuts you off. But excuse me can mean something entirely different in the context of the holidays. Like, “Outta my way.” (A recent survey suggests the “me first” attitude is running rampant during the 2013 holiday shopping season, with a plurality of consumers admitting they are shopping for themselves.) That’s never more true than when you’re standing between a shopper and the last Xbox One on the shelf. Better step aside if you don’t want to get hurt. Excuse you!

“You sure about this price?”
That’s a common refrain used by entitled bargain-hunters who, make no mistake, are not asking if the price is right. They’re asking if the price can be lowered and they think the answer is “Yes.” It’s a euphemism applied to floor displays in late December: “Are you sure about this price?” It means they think the store might be in a bargaining mood, in the interests of moving merchandise. It means the shopper believes he has the upper hand. Usually, he’s just being presumptuous.

“Thank you.”
A genuine “thank you” makes a sales associate’s job easier and can turn the grumpiest holiday shopper’s frown upside-down. But the “thank yous” you hear being tossed around when shoppers stream into the mall like locusts descending upon late summer crops are sometimes meant to convey the precise opposite. “Thank you for taking the last Despicable Me Minion!” “Thank you for spilling your eggnog latte on my six-year-old!” They’re not saying thank you. They’re saying, “[Blank] you!”

“Happy Holidays.”
I can’t remember the last time someone sincerely wished me a merry Christmas at the mall, unless you count the for-hire Santa. I have, however, heard something like it while circling a full parking lot in vain. As one driver selfishly pulled in front of another, occupying the spot for which they’d been waiting half an eternity, I heard the first driver wish the second one, “Happy holidays.” It didn’t sound very genuine, and was accompanied by a hand and a finger fully extended. Anyone care to guess what she really meant?

“I’d like a refund.”
Plenty of merchandise will be returned before New Years Day. But when someone bellies up to the counter, argyle sweater in one hand, gift receipt in the other, what are they really saying? Do they just hate the gift? Do they hate the person who gave them the gift? Or is it that their loved ones don’t really love them anymore? No matter. “I’d like a refund” means so much more than that.

Attention, shoppers! Now it’s your turn to share your favorite holiday shopping phrases.

Come on. We’re just getting started.

Do you avoid holiday shopping?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • polexia_rogue

    “Excuse me”

    that one is beings back comic con memories, basically “we are about to throw free items to anyone with in a 10 foot radius”

    “EXCUSE ME” says people who push their way to the front. as if NO ONE ELSE was waiting for free items, only them.

    i can totally picture someone saying that as they swipe an item out from under someone, while holiday shopping.

    one that i find annoying:
    “well I guess you don’t know…”
    -yes i am a janitor and there are alot of things i don’t know, but give me 10 seconds to give you a real answer. If i don’t know, I WILL tell you, but more then likely I DO KNOW the answer and I am trying to think of a good way to phrase it so I don’t end up saying something vague like “go left then right then left again, then all the way to the right and down left.”

  • technomage1

    I hate holiday shopping. I get all mine done by October or online. I don’t set foot in a store or mall until January if I can at all avoid it. And Black Friday I stay home. I don’t care if I have to pay more. It’s not worth the headaches.

  • Raven_Altosk

    If I can’t find it on the internet and have it delivered to my house, I don’t buy it.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I should have probably been clearer that I DO try to avoid holiday shopping, but it looks like I’m not going to be able to avoid the mall today. I have three kids with very specific requests from Santa. There is no escape for me! Happy holidays. ;-)

  • sffilk

    I cheerfully avoid Christmas shopping. Christmas is not my holiday, but it is for a bunch of people I know, so I get my shopping for them done by September.

  • rwm

    Internet all the way, here. I haven’t been to a “maul” in years.

  • TonyA_says

    +1 with one exception – fresh food. That I reserve for my local merchants and restaurants (not large corporate stores).


    I seldom go to malls and never between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I pick up gifts throughout the year on my travels so have little to do come Christmas time. I Too many people become caught up in a frenzy at this time of year and lose any civility they may have had. I was at a store last week getting a birthday gift for a friend and watched a woman berate the sales associate for not wishing her a Merry Christmas. The other customer asked me what I thought, obviously seeking support, and I told her I was not looking for a store’s employee to validate my religious beliefs. Customer was speechless and the employee laughed when the other person left.

  • E_Woman

    Bah humbug! I go to the mall every year. Strategic planning helps. Go early/ late, just not 1:00 PM on Saturday. Yes parking is frustrating but if you don’t mind walking it’s much less stressful. Some of us still mean it when we say thank you/ please/ excuse me. Kill ’em with kindness! FTR I’m Jewish and I hate the PC happy holiday nonsense. It’s Christmas time for Pete’s sake!

  • Justin

    Everyone likes getting a gift.


    1) Holidays have become over commercialized. Wasn’t the whole point to spend quality time with the family? I didn’t realize the spirit of “X” Holiday was receiving a Playstation 4.

    2) People forget manners, spend money they can ill afford, sink themselves in debt, and often let gifts sit unopened.

    Here’s a thought. Spread the Holiday Cheer by helping the needy.

    – Volunteer to help less fortunate
    – Donate toys to children living without
    – Help out at a food bank.

    You’ll feel a lot better about yourself.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’ve been genuinely wished a “Merry Christmas” by 2 separate people in retail settings in the last few days. The first was at a Walgreen’s, where I was picking up a few non-holiday items on my way home from Sunday church, wearing a fairly generic holiday sweater. I made sure to exchange some pleasantries with the cashier, since the customer before me was a total b . . .witch. She wished me a “Merry Christmas”. The reason it stood out was because the cashier was obviously Muslim.

    The second was yesterday, after I’d taken my mother to Wally World for an errand and I stopped by Costco afterward to pick up a few non-holiday items. The gal checking membership cards at the entrance was so very cheerful and so very *different* from my experience at the other store that I stopped and thanked her for making my shopping experience a positive one. She smiled and blurted out “Merry Christmas” and then followed up with “I mean, Happy Holidays!”. I told her I celebrate Christmas, so no problem.

    If one truly celebrates Christmas, it’s not about the shopping. And since it isn’t about the shopping, then one won’t pull out the phrases in the manner listed in the article. Or at least, most of them. “You sure about this price?” is an exception. I have been able to get better prices by asking, notably big box stores in direct competition with each other and the Internet, and in one women’s clothing store that runs nearly perpetual sales. The salesperson can always say “No” and I can either go elsewhere or accept the listed price. It’s not about being rude, it’s about being a smart shopper.

  • Jeanne_in_NE


  • Jeanne_in_NE

    No, the spirit of this holiday is receiving an Xbox One! ;-)

  • Justin


    (South Park). How will we all game together!

  • Bill

    This is why Amazon was invented

  • S363

    I always hated the “excuse me?” in lieu of “you just said something that offended me”.

    On the other hand, I always liked the Steve Martin version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zANvYB93u2g. At least you know he’s being sarcastic!

  • emanon256

    If someone spilled their eggnog latte on my child, they would get the “Excuse Me”, the “[Blank] you!”, and the fully extended finger.

  • emanon256

    I am so with you on this. Though I do frequent several locally owned shops because I believe in supporting local business. But if it can only be found in a big box store, I just get it online.

  • emanon256


  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    You mean, this eggnog latte? Oops.

    Seriously, I am not looking forward to going shopping this afternoon. It feels like its 20 degrees below out there. Need more coffee!

  • Justin

    (Joking in Jest).

    So while your kids think the Gifts are “Free” courtesy of Santa…
    I bet your wallet tends to disagree about the true meaning of “Free”.

    Happy Holidays.

  • emanon256

    LOL! I’m also Jewish, and observant, and have no problem with Christmas! However I do think some of these people who are overly pushy with Christmas and claim there is a war may need an attitude adjustment, as they seem to be the only negative ones. These are the people who berate employees for not wishing them a Merry Christmas and claim there is a war on Christmas, without realizing the employee may not celebrate Christmas.

    If someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I thank them, and wish them the same. If they say Happy Holidays, I say the same. I would prefer people assume I celebrate Christmas than have to wear a gold star in public so that people know not to say merry Christmas, and besides, they mean well. And Christmas trees are pretty! I do appreciate it when they add some Chanukah decorations as well, but I don’t care if they don’t.

    I was at a store recently where the cashier told me, “Keep the Christ in Christmas, he’s the reason for the season.” I thought that was a little over the line, but I thanked her and we both left happy.

  • emanon256

    Amen! (In agreement, not necessarily the religious sense).

    I know so many people who go in debt this time of year, and wrack up huge amounts of interest. It’s so sad. I am always a fan of hand made gifts, and time together.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Groceries and coffee are different…I mean Christmas presents… :)

  • Justin

    Nix the “Holiday in a religious sense”.
    Thanksgiving – Black Friday
    New Years – New Year Sales
    Holiday Sales

    Etc. Non Denominational Days if you so like. Point is people go on spending sprees now that are ill advised.

  • emanon256

    I actually do most of my shopping in January and then try to hide the presents all year.

    My wife’s family gives each other the same presents every year. They just keep recirculating. Every year whoever got the present the year prior, gives it to someone else the next year. Its actually pretty funny and many of the presents are older than me. Some of the noatble ones include an original Twinkey-The-Kid, and Oreo Cookie Man, and a can of road kill.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Merry Christmas,
    Happy Hanukkah

    99.9% of people are cool being greeted. But there’s that 1/10 of one percent who desperately want to excise all religious language from public discourse.

    Like any group, a small, tiny, but vocal minority can distort perceptions.

  • Olivia’s Mom

    Chris I’m having the same debate with myself. (Christmas ornaments/lights etc for a wedding shower gift….which are all very discounted now. I know the couple didn’t decorate this year due to upcoming wedding costs. Thought it was a brilliant idea for a gift) Did most of my other shopping online. I also have a few things to return (non Christmas related) Not wanting to do these things after the big day so….it’s either today or tomorrow. Weather, although still cold and windy, tells me it’s today. My body says tomorrow :P BTW if you’re home what is your weather issue? Yeah it’s cool there today but in the midwest it’s COLD! Go….(unless it’s FL mall…then RUN the other way :P)

  • bodega3

    So far, I have found happy and helpful clerks, plus cheery and happy shoppers. Yesterday, I was struggling with a 40 pound bag of Dry Stall from a low cart into the trunk of my car when an older man, riding his bike past me, stopped and asked if I needed some help. It really made my day to receive the kindness of a stranger! One old time, local restaurant, opens up their back room for an annual Christmas caroling party…all free Chris! They bake and frost, over 3,000 cookies, serve hot cider and we sing to our hearts delight…and Frosty the Snowman often get sung multiple times as everyone gets to shout out their requests and the leader always lets the kids choices be recognized. We love this season! Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, it doesn’t matter, just as long as someone is saying it nicely!

  • Cam


  • Justin

    I consider myself Agnostic and have no problems with people tactfully celebrating Holidays.

    Private businesses are free to display Christmas Trees. allow employees to wish customers Happy Holidays (Xmas, Festivus, Hanukah, New Years, etc), and so forth. I politely reciprocate.

    I’m not a huge fan of the commercialization we’ve undertaken. I truly believe embracing the Holiday Spirit means helping the less fortunate as opposed to stuffing a household with junk that’ll never get used. Plenty of needy children and homeless out there.

    Pretty much, so long as the religious aspect stays out of our public schools, and honestly our court systems, party away.

  • Dutchess

    The vocal minority argument works both ways. The religious zealots out there claiming some kind of “war on religion” want to force religion on the public.

  • Justin


    I think “God” need not be present in our schools, legal system, or government institutions. I truly believe the 10 commandments are an affront to church and state. Government is to ensure the continuity of our country. Not to endorse one belief over another. The argument applies to a Menorah Christmas Tree, or what have you.

    That being said, if you send your child to a Church run school, expect religion. Private businesses are free to celebrate as chosen. Wish me a Merry Xmas and I’ll wish you one back =).

    The whole celebrating holidays tactfully. I.E. Remembering the less fortunate. Recognize not everyone shares the same beliefs. Be respectful of diversity.

    Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with spreading “Cheer”.

  • LonnieC

    Hooray! A voice of reason. I’m also Jewish, and agree with everything you said. Thanks!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    +1. I’d like it more than that, except the “Thumpety, thump, thump” earworm is now firmly entrenched.

  • Susan Liberantowski

    I hear Steve Martin in SNL….” well, EXCUUUUSSSE ME!

  • emanon256

    I was walking by a hotel and people were roasting marshmallows and making smores. The hotel employees were waiving people in from the street encouraging them to make smores as well. It actually was free, I didn’t even have to be a hotel guest. Just by walking by, I got free smores. Now thats the holiday spirit!

  • Travelnut

    I don’t agree but I’m not sure a debate would be on topic.

    That said… I was raised Southern Baptist (I’m Episcopalian now – getting more liberal in my old age). When I was in the third or fourth grade, there was only one Jewish family in our school. The mother came and together with the daughters did a presentation on Hanukkah. It made a tremendous impression on me. I think it was my first realization that there were religions besides Christianity! To this day I’m fascinated by Judaism and its traditions. I might be the most Jewish shiksa around! Anyway, perhaps the key is to present all religions, or no religion, to children when they are at an impressionable age, and we might find, not that it would sway them towards other beliefs, but give them a greater tolerance towards different beliefs. Just my $0.02.

    At work we have a holiday charity kind of like angel tree, that for many years was called Christmas Cheer. About ten years ago our company got PC and started calling it Season of Sharing. I still hate calling it SoS. At the same time, I think the koolaid of society in general has gotten me to the point where if I see something religious, or hear a religious Christmas song, it strikes me as odd. I’m trying to unbrainwash myself.

  • Travelnut

    Your wife’s family sounds like my kind of people. :)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I believe that religion is part of people’s culture. I don’t see an issue with the government recognizing that fact. Let the Christmas Tree, Menorah, etc., be displayed on government property.
    We certainly don’t want the government to promote one religion over another. But unless we are going to ban all celebrations and displays from government property, excluding religious displays is discriminatory.
    I simply ask that religion be placed on the same footing as other ideas, celebrations, displays. Neither preferential, nor at the metaphorical back of the bus.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Yes, there are some who want to force religion on others, and some who want to force religion from others. It works both ways and both sides should be mindful of that.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Forbidding the display of religious symbols on government property is censorship. Its content based discrimination. Hardly seems fair. I’m an evangelical Christian. I am not offended by other religions displays.

    In fact, if the local Agnostic group wants to have an Agnostic display, more power to it. Simply create objective standards to prevent discrimination, benign or otherwise.

  • omgstfualready

    Darwin Day is in February and I’ve yet to get my boss to give me the day off? And not one present to be had. Bah humbug lol.

  • omgstfualready

    I’m raised Jewish, culturally still identify as a Jew, but am atheist. But the war on Christmas is hilarious. I like to be wished a happy holiday if it means someone accepts others are different and just wishes someone well. I still take off on the 25th and have my movie and Chinese food.

  • omgstfualready

    I disagree but took out my response, not the time/place.

  • omgstfualready

    When someone is so very rude and they do the ‘excuse me’ I’ve responded. ‘No, I can’t, that’s inexcusable’. I know I’m not changing anything but it’s satisfying to politely shake them up even for a moment. Same with ‘do you mind’. Why yes. Thanks for asking. The blank look you get is fun. 8-)

  • emanon256

    Haha!! I am cracking up. We always see a movie and have Chinese food on the 25th too! Although my wife does celebrate Christmas, but is agnostic. All most all of my Jewish friends have become Atheists as well. I feel I identify more with Atheists than some evangelical Christians. I have a former boss and good friend who is an ultra-conservative evangelical Christian, and he is extremely respectful of all religions and open and respectful to everyone. He is always sure to treat people the way they want to be treated, and doesn’t push his beliefs unless welcomed. He also respects the separation of church and state. I wish more people were like him. He walks the line perfectly and is a good person!

  • JenniferFinger

    A variation on “Happy holidays: “Have a nice day.” Meaning, “Go have a pissy fit somewhere else because we don’t agree that we owe you anything.”

  • omgstfualready

    Sounds perfect, have your beliefs, live as you wish, and no prothletizing. Thank him for me, I’m mocked often and find it grating.

    Many good friends of mine are Christian. I like saying that, ever notice when someone hears you’re a Jew they say oh, so and so is Jewish. Uh, ok. We don’t all know each other genius. I live in ‘fly over’ country so meeting a non Christian is like finding Nessie.

    Anyway on YouTube search for the song I eat Chinese Food on Christmas. Enjoy! Also the Maccabeats are entertaining to watch. I don’t think I’m allowed to put the link here

  • omgstfualready

    Oh, and if never watched the movie the invention of lying I think it’ll be up your alley

  • omgstfualready

    Omg, so funny.

  • emanon256

    I lived in the Mid West for a while, and was one of the only Jews around. I often got asked the same thing. “Oh you must know so-and-so who lived here 20 years before you moved here…” Really? Of course, when I lived there the majority of people would try to save me when they learned of my religion. I love the Maccabeats! I have to look up the video later.

  • omgstfualready

    I enjoy trying to be saved. I usually know more about their book and ask about this inconsistency and that falsehood and oh what fun! Last thing to watch is Sarah Silverman ‘give the Jew girl toys’.

  • TonyA_says

    My old brother practices Reform Judaism and I am a devout atheist.
    But we certainly agree on one thing – IN GOD WE TRUST :-)
    PS. that’s the best gift ever.

  • Justin

    Here’s where I tend to disagree. Personal feelings are the ten commandments, references to “God”, and all depictions of religion need be absent from public school and government installations. Government installatings include Courtrooms.

    One can make the argument that the Ten Commandments form the basis of our laws. Argument notwithstanding, judicial rulings shouldn’t ingratiated thsemselves with religious bias. Every society determines rules and laws that best servce the community. Let these laws stand on their own two feet, absent of what one faith believes over another.

    By allowing one faith, sentimental and personal bias begin to take hold. Perfect example: Parents want Christmas Plays and Song allowed in Public School. Heck, the one public school I attended went so far as to have Prayer during the school assemblies. I kid you not.and would flat out demand the Principal or staff allow me to leave the room.

    Do you think if put on a Wiccan Play, Celebrated Ramadan, or made the school Pray to Allah, I’d have an equal warm welcoming? Answer not necessary.

    When it comes to religion, it’s best left at the doorstep. People are passionate of their faith, irrespective of the minority. Thus, religion needs left to the family unit and brought up in historical context only.

    Teach the Holocaust, Armenian Genocide, Inquisition, as events within history.

    P.S. I stand by my statement that Private Businesses, Employees, and so forth are more than welcome to setup Holiday Displays. I don’t mind being wished a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukah.

  • TonyA_says

    Nowadays, I have noticed that a lot of new stuff come out around October. By December, you are probably buying some picked over stuff. I guess it must be the Made in China effect. They probably have goods manufactured and have them shipped here to reach around Oct-early November time frame.

  • Justin

    See my reply above regarding Courthouses and Schools. I bet you a million dollars Carver, we’d have protesters if the Court House had the Koran =) on display instead of the 10 commandments. We want equality though, right?
    I’m not picking on Muslims. A great friend of mine is from the Middle East. However, American hysteria wouldn’t appreciate opening Prayers to “Allah” during the convening of Congress.

    My Point. Religion has no place in the daily operations of a Western Society. Take fundamental countries and see how well the hardline approach works. Therefore, it’s best to let private matters remain private.
    Religious freedom is wonderful. Even better when left to the family unit and the Private sphere.

  • Justin

    I hate political correctness except in religious contest. Season of Sharing recognizes diversity and doesn’t single out one faith over another. Why I jokingly say Happy Festivus =). Though I don’t mind Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.

    Rest of the post is spot on. However, I think it’s up to the family unit to promote diversity. Sure, kids meet friends in school, or learn about the historical nature of religion (Holocaust, etc). However, there’s no substitue for being around peers different than oneself.

    If a child goes to an all white school, never mixes with other races or religions, the child lives in a small world. Unless the child remains within the community, there’s a rude awakening at hand.

    Solution: Explain to children and teach the fundamentals. Sharing is good. We’re all not the same (Height, Weight, Color, Beliefs, etc), but we all need to get along. We call that conflict resolution and tolerance. Those don’t require God or dipping into faith. Pure old common sense.

  • TonyA_says

    How true! And worse, buying the whole Amazon store does not make one happy.
    And you’ll do is need a bigger house to store your made in China junk you’ll probably only use once. There’s got to be a better way to live.

  • Justin

    I demand recognition of “Flying Spaghetti Monster” Day. Let’s start a petition to have formal celebrations for the Noodly Saint.. Darwin can wear a Pasta Hat in tribute. Merge the two days into one!

  • Justin

    =) Let’s not go so far. I’d be quite smug owning Amazon! Bling Bling!

    Just Kidding. Some of the most content people in the world live spartan existences. Materialism doesn’t buy happiness and there’s a lot more to life than owning the newest Xbox, Playstation, and so forth.

    If my health didn’t suck, I’d give up everything to travel the world. I find joy in meeting people, seeing cultures, and trying new things more rewarding.

  • emanon256

    I love Sarah Silverman!

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    OK, here’s what happened. I’m in DC, and it was pretty cold here (30s). I’m staying over at Charlie Leocha’s place in Virginia. We drove into town for lunch and stopped by the Capitol. I hit the House and Senate gift shop and then went to the Library of Congress gift store. It was a good time. No eggnog lattes were spilled on legislators during the shopping of gifts. I leave for Florida tomorrow, where the highs are expected to be near 90. We’re going to the beach this weekend. I can’t wait.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We’re each allowed out personal feelings and they are entitled to respect. However, the very basis of the 1st Amendment is that we might see and hear things that we don’t like or might offend us. If the Wiccans, Muslims, or whomever wants to use the public facilities, more power to them.

    What I don’t want is for us to censor religion, which is what you are proposing. I don’t see the difference between that and my silly brethren who removed and even burned books that they felt were anti-God.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    But isn’t that the rub. Its that we don’t teach or talk about other religions, faiths, and points of views that leads to intolerance and stereotyping. If all we knew about Christians was Westboro(sp) Baptist church, all we knew about Muslims were jihadist, all we knew about atheist were the one who actively hate people of faith, we breed intolerance on all levels.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Here’s my question. Why single out religion? Everything else gets to come to the table at the marketplace of ideas. Nothing else is a “private” matter. We have displays/celebrations/observances on race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, etc, but we want to shove religion out of the public discourse.

    And kudos, I want to thank you for having a very civilized discussion. Touchy subjects can cause tempers.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I *love* the Maccabeats!

    By the way, have you heard about the “Maccabee on the Mantle”? Videos on the manufacturer’s website are just *funny*! Thought about getting one just to mess with people. :)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I wouldn’t waste a perfectly good eggnog *anything* on many, many, many of those legislators.

  • emanon256

    Just my 2 cents. I totally see the argument for the no public entity forcing prayer, or having a specific religious display, etc. I don’t see absence as censoring religion, I see the governemnt display or mandatory prayer as the government respecting a religion, which is also not allowed under the first amendment.

  • emanon256

    You are not the extremist, you are the good one. Its the extremists who demand their display be present, and no other display be present because it’s violating their religious rights, that re the problem.

  • AH

    this has been a very interesting thread to read! i want to thank all of you who have contributed your thoughts, opinions and, most especially, your experiences.
    i’m a regular reader/infrequent poster, so i do recognize many of the frequent posters, and off topic as many have been on this thread (that’s not unusual here…lol), i have read and appreciated every one.
    thank you all, and my best wishes to you for this “end of year celebration time” what ever or however you may celebrate it! (sincerely said and meant!)

  • Bill___A

    I suppose shopping does get pretty hairy but actually from where I’ve been, it has fortunately been polite and civilized. Also, I am in LA right now and people have been downright friendly even walking along the street. They seem to get screwed up on the time of day though. A fellow passing on a bicycle said “good afternoon” about 10:30 this morning, and then the woman at the hotel front desk said “good evening’ at about 2 pm. Not sure how to explain that but it was all pleasantly done.

  • Justin

    There’s a fundamental difference between our arguments.

    We’re not talking the outright removal or banning of religion. What I’m advocating is taking away the elements that lack merit from government institutions.

    Here’s a better worded question. Other than creating divisiveness and utilizing public funds (tax payers are diverse set), what i intrinsically achieved through the display of religious depictions?

    Let me go one step further. Where do we draw the line? Are western religions the only one’s allowed to display? Maybe I originate from a Head Hunting Tribe. What if I’m a Neo Nazi? I might offend, but hey, free speech?=) See the slippery slope Carver.

    This is why cities SHOULD and DO have cultural days. To teach the public about diversity. The rest of the time, our government has no business mandating, displaying, endorsing, or promoting ANY religion.

  • Justin

    Respecting or endorsing?

  • Dutchess

    No, forbidding all religious displays on government property is a means of following the establishment clause of the constitution, and is the only truly fair thing to do. There’s plenty of other ways for you to practice your free speech, and banning their presence on government property would not inhibit that speech. Furthermore, the idea of “if another group wants to have a display, then let them” idea is not only impractical (exactly how many other displays do you want littering your courthouse steps?) it’s unfairly biased towards the predominant religion. As history has shown, the minority groups will tend to be silent or not exercise their same right to free speech whether it be because of intimidation, less resources or through fear of repercussion. If you doubt this, look at the young lady who fought to have a prayer removed that was illegally displayed in her school. She received public scorn, death threats and ridicule. There are any other number of similar instances.

  • Justin

    Cultural Days. Plenty of cities have and promote these festivals. No need to bring God into the mix. Bring out the food, dress, dance, and have fun learning at the same time.

  • Justin


    I mentioned above that I attended a public school that became predominately black over time. For whatever reason, the Principal deemed necessary to allow prayer during school assemblies. Suffice to say I spoke my mind and demanded to be elsewhere.

    Talk about a lawsuit in the making, but I was 1) White 2) Not Christian 3) Disagreed. Don’t think he cared too much about my opinion.

    Had I lawyered up, I’d be rich and bet their attitude changed. The point here is that the Majority often sees ONLY the majority until forcible told otherwise.

    Rest has been covered by you about equal representation or intimidation.

  • Justin

    I’ve always wondered: Everything here is Made in China. If I go to China, is everything there made in the U.S.A. =). (Kidding).

  • Justin

    I absolutely love Washington D.C. The one thing I don’t love in the traffic.
    You are a brave man Chris. The two times I drove downtown, my GPS had a panic attack. I got lost and the traffic was horrendous! I stick to the subway. Not to mention the whole parking issue.

    I imagine you’ve been to D.C. / Virginia before? Love the Smithsonians (Seen them All), Done the Capitol Tour,

    A hidden Gem if you are a seafood fan: Maine Avenue Fish Market. Expect Rustic but the food is good.

  • emanon256

    The constitution says respecting, but I interpret what hey do as endorsing which I think is even worse.

  • Katie242

    Yesterday I went to the dentist for a regular cleaning and ended up at an oral surgeon’s office having a wisdom tooth pulled. Now I don’t mind crowded shops and pushy people – I’m not at the dentist’s office! Life is good – even if I have to chew my Christmas cookies on one side of my mouth.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Furthermore, the idea of “if another group wants to have a display, then
    let them” idea is not only impractical (exactly how many other displays
    do you want littering your courthouse steps?

    We do it for everything else. That’s like not permitting ethnic celebrations because there are too many racial groups and someone might be excluded. Not permitting religious displays is censorship. Fortunately, the courts disagree with your interpretation of the Establishment Clause.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And who decides which elements lack merit? That’s the worse case scenario. Some government bureaucrat arbitrating religion. The minority religions will really get screwed in that case.

    Re: divisiveness.

    That exactly what the 1st Amendment protects. Speech that is unpopular, divisive, subversive, etc. The entire point is that within some very narrow exceptions, each person or group gets to express themselves, even if someone else doesn’t like or approve the message.

    Re: Slippery Slope

    That’s generally a red herring position. Allocating resources is always an issue for governments as the normal market forces of allocation may not work. That’s the same for any display or celebration. Which cultural groups are represented both in school and at the State Capital? Who gets a state holiday? Who gets a parade? These are the common and recurring questions of government that are resolved daily.

    And we haven’t even gotten into the sticky area yet. The KKK gets full 1st Amendment protection. Aryan Nation gets on public access TV in Los Angeles. But mention religion and you have fewer 1st Amendment rights that these “people”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    aka censor out God.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Those people annoy me to no end. The government should not be endorsing one religion over another. But at the same time, it should not be censoring religion either.

  • sffilk

    I had to go to the post office to buy a stamp yesterday. As someone was leaving, she wished me a Merry Christmas. I then wished her a Happy Hanukkah and then raised the ante by wishing her a belated Happy Thanksgivukkah, which gave her pause for a moment until I explained.

    A belated Happy Thanksgivukkah to one and all.

  • Justin

    Precisely the response I figured you’d give, but far from accurate.

    At every festival I’ve attended, art or cultural, participating groups make pamphlets available to passerbys. Pampthlets highlight their businesses, cultural beliefs, or facts about their countries.

    Nothing stop a group from creating materials that highlight pertinent facts about their faith. So I’m not advocating censorship. I’m promoting OPTIONAL, but equal acess, to all participants. So if you or I so choose to stop and talk, we can pick up a flyer to read.

    Why is this better than a displays? The city isn’t involved in a pick or choose scenario. All groups get equal face time. My tax dollars aren’t being wasting promoting any single group. No preferential treatment is given.


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sure, and before civil rights blacks got to ride on the same bus as everyone else – just not up front. Failure to have the same level of access, promotion, official standing, is to make you separate and hardly equal.

    If you believe that this is a win-win, how about applying the same standards to other organizations, say ethnic or sexual orientation.

    The ironic thing is that the arguments that you make are the same ones that were used in the 80s to disenfranchise gays, and in the 50-60s to disenfranchise blacks.

  • Justin

    Carver, your argument is grasping for straws and quickly sinking.

    What you state is already being applied EQUALLY to the aforementioned groups. Religious entities, LGBT Minorities are allowed to spread literature, talk to people, have “pride days”, revivals, and so forth with proper permits.

    Allowing every group (irrespective of belief) to participate is hardly segregating or providing seperate but equal facilities. The city isn’t allocating the Jews to the back near the toilets and the Christians to the lot in front.

    A matter of fact, the city is saying come one come all. All groups are given the same face time at the public’s choosing. We are celebrating members of the community. Bring your literature, watch the groups show off their culture, enjoy the food, and learn about diversity.

    Gays, Blacks, Jews, Christians, welcome.

  • Justin

    Allocating space is the red herring. So a bureaucrat with a rubber stamp still decides which group has access.

    The lawn is only so big, minority groups less funded, and specific views given preference.

    What items are more likely to get approval:

    1) Cross / Ten Commandments
    2) Menorah
    3) Swaztika celebrating White Pride
    4) Pegan Materials celebrating the Solstace
    5) Flying Spaghetti Monster
    6) Satanists

    =). So some politician at the permit and approval level still discriminates. I see the ten commandments posted in courthouses. Yet, references to the Torah, Koran, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Satanists, Pegans, etc remain absent

    I hardly read fair or equal. My idea is better.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    The government permits St. Patrick’s Day Parades on government property. The sponsoring organization obtains the proper permits and follows the rules and guidelines set forth.

    The event gets placed within the city list of events. People are wished Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and dress in green, yada yada yada, all on government property.

    If a church wants to sponsor an Easter Parade, the church should have the same rights, the same level of city promotion, emphasis on,,,, the same

    As long as that happens, I’m happy. My issue is when someone says, oh I”m sorry, you can’t have an Easter Parade because its religious.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The above is simply not true.

    There are objective standards which must be applied. When they are not, lawsuits quickly ensue. (Its called content based discrimination) For example, the City determines that it will permit say 15 parades this year. The first 15 applicants who meet the neutral criteria get approved. The criteria may include an application fee, adherence to time, and noise rules, history of issues (alcohol, nudity, etc.). In same cases a lottery is employed.

    The point is that a list of objective criteria is employed. And yes, white supremacists have been granted permits. Our remedy is to either ignore them, or mock them. We don’t get to censor them.

  • Dutchess

    A ethnic celebration, such as a parade or other event is different than a permanent monument on a government property. They aren’t comparable.

    It appears the courts disagree on the Establishment Clause. The banner being removed from the Missouri school was deemed in violation of church and state by a Federal Court and the ruling on the 10 commandments monument in other states. This hardly seems like a clear cut “the courts have rules situation”. Though, in Oklahoma currently, exactly what I said would happen is happening. All the lovely christian folks are up in arms when another group is attempting to put their monument next to theirs.

    It seems here, the only people in this country REALLY trying to force their views on others are the religious groups. And remember, just because you can’t eat donuts because your holy book says its wrong, doesn’t mean everyone else can’t eat doughnuts. Making them legal doesn’t violate your religious freedom. I’m not sure why people can’t see this.

  • Justin

    Notice Carver, your view is now becoming centrist towards mine.

    St. Patrick Day Parades are allowed on government Property. Wonderful!!! Allow Gay Pride, Satantics, the KKK, Pagans, or whomever!

    I love free speech. I don’t love displays. What you are referring to here is EQUAL ACCESS via Free Speech and Public Assembly.

    Assemble me a good old fasion Protest, Festival, or Cultural day. Let all parties involved celebrate their “faith, sexual orientation, what have you”, and invite the public.

    The bureaucrat rubber stamping one display over another is now removed. Admit all parties so long as the behavior does not incite a riot, is done respectfully, etc.

    – Now fire up the Celtic Music – We’ve got some Dancing!

  • omgstfualready

    Ah, his noodly goodness. A man did get to wear a colander on his head for some state ID photo as he is a pastafarian and he was being denied his rights. He’s a guy that needs a statue in a public square.

  • Justin

    Unlikely I can erect a Flying Spaghetti Monster Statue at a local Courthouse. Why do you think courts have faced and lost challenges to displaying the ten commandments? Not so objective, huh? You can argue objective criteria, but we both know the truth. Christianity is given favoritism.

    I stand by my statement of cultural days. Government installations and schools are not the place debate faith. Leave these discussions to the community level.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And that’s why you are advocating censorship. You’re excluding only certain “speech”, in this case religious speech, from the government installations and schools.

    The only way it’s not censorship is to exclude everything. The minute you begin picking and choosing based on the message you are into censorship territory.

    It’s really quite simple. Choose another one of the big classifications:, race, sexual orientation, national original, and gender. I challenge you to make the same exclusionary argument as it becomes painfully obvious that its censorship.

  • Justin

    I advocate none. My mention of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was in jest. Government installations are paid with by tax dollars from diverse groups. Picking and choosing “appropriateness” is still picking and choosing. As a tax payer, I don’t want my money supporting religious causes.

    Where do you draw the line on “recognized” displays? Are we talking “recognized” western religions? non offensive?

    I find references to a Cross offensive. So does that mean it’s excluded? Maybe I’m a Neo Nazi (I’m not). So can I stick up a Swaztika? Sure you’re offended, but maybe I’m not. Is there a Poll you take on “Good Taste”. If X amount don’t like the display, it’s banned?

    You aren’t going to win the debate here. Courts are on my side for removing the ten commandments. Regardless of the criteria, someone’s left out and offended. So the ultimate argument is to NOT allow any.

    Keep the displays on the front lawn of your house or at a private business.

  • Justin

    P.S. you’ve clearly glossed over the fact courts have ruled the ten commandments taken down on several occasions.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Government installations and schools are not the place debate faith

    If you’re forbidding it, you’re censoring. How much clearer can it be,

    Regardless of the criteria, someone’s left out and offended. So the ultimate argument is to NOT allow any.

    That’s an option if we remove all speech that is not part of the government business. But if you choose only religious speech because, As a tax payer, I don’t want my money supporting religious causes. you are censoring by forcing religion out of the public square.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And on other occasions the court has permitted it to remain, so that’s hardly the germane. :-P

    But seriously, the ten commandments on the courtroom is the least of my objections. I’ll give you a real example. When I was a UCLA law student, the students paid dues for club support. Every student paid the same dues, but the Christian club was the only club that didn’t receive funding from the student fees. Every other club was given a budget and an office. I paid the same dues as every other club,but my organization got shafted purely because we were religious. Does that strike you as fair or preferential?

  • Justin

    Now you have it. There’s no clear winner, which is why the courts side with me. Can’t make everyone happy, so in the name of equality, no one has a say here. Therefore, the Ten Commandments are removed from Courthouses upon challenge.

    Keep the displays on private property. No one cares and you’re happy to wish everyone Happy KKK, Kwanza, Neo Nazi, Festivus White Supremacy, Hanukkah, etc.

    P.S. allowing displays stifles religious freedom. Limited displays, someone decides “appropriateness”, and offensive is subjective. I find depictions of Christianity offensive. A Menorah is fine. Buddha is fine. But no Baby Jesus or Mary! See how that works.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No, the courts are all over the place. The courts have been particularly receptive when the ten commandments are paired with other sources of law, e.g. Hamadi code. Go to the Harrisburg, PA state buildings.

    As I previously stated the appropriateness and offensive argument is all smoke and mirrors, easily resolved. Offensive is only an issue in the court of public opinion. You have no rights not to be offended, so that’s not even a part of the discussion. Nor is making everyone happy an issue. Appropriateness only applies to obscenity.

  • Justin

    Yes it does. Here’s why:

    UCLA is a public funded school receiving tax dollars. Separation of church and state. I can’t take public money and set up a Christian Revival group at a public school during regular classroom hours. Students are free to initiate a group after school ends, but activities must be student led.

    The second argument you gloss over is that Sexual Orientation and Race aren’t the same as religion. Religion proselytizes. Gay groups aren’t trying to “convert” and race groups can’t preach “black, muslim, Hindu, Thai, etc”. Race is culturally based alone.

    If you wished to attend Marymount University, I concede. Your group deserves funds. Institution is private.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Yet, they took our money. What about separation of church and State on that side? Taxation without representation? I might agree with you if we had some opt out ability. That’s why churches aren’t taxed. They give up their ability to politically advocate and gained tax free status.

    Incidentally, separation of church and state has nothing to do with it. It was purely a UCLA School of Law Policy. It wasn’t even a UCLA policy, as religious groups in other parts of the school has equal access to University resources as their non-religious peers.

    Plus, what you are talking about doesn’t apply post high school for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that different standards apply to adults and children.

  • Justin

    Left the part out regarding Law Policy and UCLA. Discriminatory Yes. UCLA need ban promoting religious groups through the use of School Funds. Allowing groups or departments to choose is very ambiguous. One for all or all for none. I vote all for none.

    See above on taking money. Churches aren’t taxed, BUT they’re not suppose to be politically active. We all know this to be a crock, and isn’t enforced. Tax exempt 501c3 specifically forbids such activity.

    Honestly, I don’t feel ANY religious institution should receive 501c3 or tax dollars. Churches are profitable. Many 501c3s spend large amounts on administration and very little on the cause.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its not promoting anything is each club gets the same money based on a simple objective criteria, e.g. equal, pro rata, etc share, no promoting, simple computer algorithm.

    Otherwise, let the students op out and keep their own money.

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