Tolerance. Most Americans would agree it's a core principle of our democracy: the right of all people to express feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from our own.
Think about it, especially when you read or hear about our core institutions -- schools, government, public services... even our military -- practicing INtolerance when they bow to threats of lawsuits and prevent the free expression of beliefs, in this case ones that involve faith.
What message do we send to children, for instance, when we deny them the right to post in their classroom a drawing of a Christmas tree or Santa, or a menorah, a Kwanza kinara or a crescent and five-pointed star?
It seems to me that every time we strike down the posting of a religious symbol in a place of learning, the only lessons taught are INtolerance and that diversity is to be feared.
I, for one, have no fear of my children witnessing the lighting of a menorah or kinara in a classroom, or the posting of a crescent and star. I would hope they'd want to know more about the beliefs those symbols represent and gain an appreciation and respect for those who practice, celebrate, and in some cases give their lives for beliefs different from their own.
And it doesn't stop there.
Halloween and Valentine's Day observances are now targets, with demands by some that symbols of both be removed from our classrooms lest they promote paganism.
To some, perhaps they do.
And in a tolerant society, those views are expressed, explored and respected -- but they should not suppress those who believe one promotes fun, while the other celebrates love.
A tolerant society works to accommodate all beliefs -- not trample them.
And, finally, to those who yell, "slippery slope," I ask you to consider: Aren't we a stronger democracy and a more tolerant people when we open the doors to invite in and learn about ALL beliefs?
Think about that... and the next time someone stands up at a school board meeting complaining that it’s inappropriate for a guy dressed in a Santa suit to visit a kindergarten classroom -- be tolerant. That's their right.
Then wish them a Merry Christmas... or a Happy Whatever. That's yours.
George Kindel is managing editor of FoxNews.com, and is on a journey around America in search of stories that celebrate the Christmas spirit and New Year's hope. If you have a story to suggest, write him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.