Forget "Happy holidays." What Sen. Chris Buttars wants to hear from Utah retailers is "Merry Christmas."
The West Jordan Republican is having a resolution drafted for the 2009 Legislature that he said asks retailers not to "exclude Christmas from your holiday greetings." Resolutions, of course, cannot be enforced.
Buttars said he is seeking the resolution because he was contacted by several employees of a retailer he declined to name that had been told they couldn't say "Merry Christmas" to customers.
"We have a war on Christmas," Buttars said, invoking the battle fought this time of year by conservatives nationwide, including, since 2005, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who has said the issue is at the center of the nation's culture war.
Just last month, Wall Street Journal editorial page deputy editor Daniel Henninger linked the current economic crisis to the celebration of "desacralized 'holidays"' warning, "A nation whose people can't say 'Merry Christmas' is a nation capable of ruining its own economy."
Buttars, who has taken on a number of controversial issues in the Legislature over the years including teaching creationism in public schools, said the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday because the United States is a Christian nation.
"We started that way and we still are," the senator said.
He said although the language of the resolution has not yet been drafted, he wants to leave it up to retailers how they express their support for Christmas, whether in advertising, store decorations or employee greetings.
Buttars said it's too soon for him to say who'll sign on to his resolution but that other lawmakers including members of leadership he declined to identify are backing the effort.
Senate President-elect Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said he was surprised to hear about the resolution. "I think the Legislature recognizes that resolutions lacking the impact of law are just messages being sent," he said. "Sometimes you have to send a message."
Waddoups said he wanted to see the resolution before deciding whether he'd vote for it. But the new Senate leader dismissed suggestions that lawmakers might have better ways to use their time.
"I'm not going to say what is the best way to use our time. We find time to do all the state's work," Waddoups said. "The issue is whether there's support (for Buttars' resolution). I think he's well-intentioned, again."
As for the 'war on Christmas,' Waddoups said, "if people want to say, 'Merry Christmas,' more power to them. If they want to say, 'Happy Hanukkah,' more power to them. Let's spread joy and happiness rather than make a negative out of everything."