CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) is again asking Gov. Jim Justice to stop the practice of declaring the week leading up to Thanksgiving as “Christian Heritage Week.” Sadly, this is the 30th consecutive year West Virginia has made this declaration.
This declaration is blatantly unconstitutional, as both the U.S. and West Virginia constitutions prohibit the government from showing preferential treatment to any religion over another. There is no corresponding week or even a single day in West Virginia dedicated to those who observe Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, indigenous or other faiths.
The declaration is also an obvious attempt to co-opt a nationally recognized secular holiday that is celebrated by people of many different faiths and backgrounds, ACLU-WV Advocacy Director Eli Baumwell said.
Furthermore, the declaration is sought by fringe actors like David Barton and his anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim organization Wallbuilders. Barton and his organization have the right to organize and speak, but the government has no business legitimizing their hateful rhetoric, Baumwell said.
Finally, the declaration is unnecessary. Setting aside certain days, weeks, or months to honor the contributions of a particular group is typically done to raise awareness and appreciation. There is no need to raise awareness of Christianity in the United States, which has the largest Christian population on earth. The vast majority of people who positions of power in the U.S. are themselves Christian, Baumwell pointed out.
Baumwell outlined these concerns and more in a letter to Justice’s office this week. View the full letter below.