Merry Christmas, ACLU

PowerBlog! has a great suggestion:

I’m sick of seeing anything remotly connected to Christmas being forced from the American landsacpe. The ACLU is behind most, if not all of it. So I thought we should all get together and send a Christmas card to the folks over at the ACLU.

I once sent a Meat Lover’s pizza to the folks at PETA. Never even got a thank you but it’s the thought that counts. If you care to send a bit of Christmas cheer to the lost people at the ACLU here s the address:

ACLU of PA
Greater Pittsburgh Chapter
313 Atwood St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

BTW, I’ve decide to back off from my suggestion of not using "Merry Christmas" (hence the title). I still think something like the Easter exchange of "He is risen" and "He is risen indeed" would be cool. Perhaps "He is with us" and "He is with us indeed" (because Immanuel means "God with us") would work.

Comments 41

  1. h2 wrote:

    “Question for H2:

    “You want the ACLU to stop the secular X-mas celebrations?”

    Tom,

    I think you may have confused me with one of the other commenters here; I’ve never actually advocated this. I don’t think any celebration should be stopped, per se. Inherent to that statement is, of course, the idea that neither should religious celebrations be stopped.

    Posted 20 Dec 2004 at 3:57 am
  2. h2 wrote:

    “The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator’s family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests.”-
    IRS

    -do you know what that means, as long as we’re being supremely technical? That means most churches, by definition, don’t qualify for tax-exempt status, as they ideally do operate for the benefit of their members, their Creator, as well as others. But now I’m being a little nit-picky.

    That aside, why is it frightening to think that a person who believes in a set of principles would want to live by them? I don’t know what you believe, but my church doesn’t teach us to “enforce” our beliefs upon others. If it did, I suppose I’d understand where you’re coming from with that comment. But really, is religion for you just something you practice a couple hours a week on Sunday? If that’s the case, I can see where we profoundly disagree — something I noted in the post I put up on my blog a little earlier.

    For the record though, I have to acknowledge (for the benefit of those who seem to strongly dislike the ACLU) that the ACLU does have a track record of defending Christianity in some situations where the civil liberties of Christians are attacked. It’s not the Christian defense league exactly, but they do actually defend Christians too.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 10:41 am
  3. Tom wrote:

    *chuckles* I agree, and hedged later on in my post, that perhaps I’m naive. I think part of it is that I have a divider in my mind- Religion is inherently and importantly different than things like commericialism, magazines, whatever.

    First, the Super Bowl comment- trust me, I was as unhappy with that as anyone else. Now, did I care personally? Nope. Didn’t offend me. Do I think others should have been offended? No, I think the US needs to grow up. That being said, I understand how others were offended.

    Regarding what you said, versus listening/hearing. I like the way you’ve put it out here- but again, I struggle when it becomes religion. Being such a matter of faith, one that divides this nation, even if we don’t like it, and one that is inherently personal- much more so than the commericalism of any holiday, I struggle to place it in a like category.

    But that’s me, again 😉

    Posted 21 Dec 2004 at 7:58 pm
  4. h2 wrote:

    -and still, the coincidental convergence of pop political issues with principles churches have held for generations could easily be defended if tax exempt status was called into question as a result of this type of indirect “endorsement” activity. All you need to prove is that the organization whose status is being questioned isn’t erecting new philosophy, or substantively changing existing philosophy, strictly for political purposes.

    Political organizations aren’t simply those whose philosophies happen to occasionally coincide with political topics, but those whose primary activities are substantially political in nature.

    I suppose the core question after we spin around in circles debating the rest of it, is this: Does the state have the authority to define religion? Technically it doesn’t, and the Constitution is supposed to guarantee that. But some people seem to believe defining religion is the state’s job.

    And that is very scary.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 11:25 am
  5. h2 wrote:

    -sorry, I apparently screwed up that closing tag for the bold face… as an aside, it’s fascinating that such an interesting discussion could be launched with a comment beginning with the words “wow, you’re an idiot.”

    -in other places that could have really spiraled downwards.

    Posted 20 Dec 2004 at 4:01 am
  6. Steve N wrote:

    … I struggle when it becomes religion. Being such a matter of faith, one that divides this nation, even if we don’t like it, and one that is inherently personal- much more so than the commericalism of any holiday, I struggle to place it in a like category.

    Tom, this is strange. You seem to be saying that you think religious speech is more important than “commercial” speech. But you also seem to be saying, perhaps even for that reason, that it should be kept more private. It seems (at least to me) that if it was more “important” it should accord more protection, and if such speech was merely commercial it hardly deserves protection at all. (Actually, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if the Supreme Court was to suddenly decide exactly this.)

    Perhaps I’m not hearing you right.

    I guess I would have to say that “religious” (philosophical, axiomatic, and/or faith) sensibilities should be an important factor informing our public behavior. To force (either by law, by threatened lawsuit, or by stern brow beating) such aspects out of public behavior ultimately denies their relevance. I suppose this is precisely what militant secularism would have us do.

    But doesn’t this ignore the fact that everyone (absolutely everyone… including militant secularism) has an axiomatic basis of belief which, more or less, influences their public “conversation.” If militant secularism forces every other axiomatic system of the public square, then it will have, to large effect, become the state religion. (I’m convinced this is exactly what has happened in France, cf. Muslim headscarves).

    Cheers!

    Posted 22 Dec 2004 at 10:04 pm
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    Allowing religious organizations to endorse or support a political candidate can be detrimental to all involved.

    I tend to agree. However, I draw a distinction between rejecting one candidate and actively endorsing another. Also, just because something’s a bad idea doesn’t mean it should be made illegal, especially when free speech is on the line.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 6:16 am
  8. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Ah, I couldn’t remember what the response to that Byzantine greeting was, Emily. Thanks. I had mentioned it to Funky as a possible alternative Christmas greeting.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 9:05 pm
  9. theomorph wrote:

    Allowing religious organizations to endorse or support a political candidate can be detrimental to all involved.

    It misleads the people in the pews by conflating their religious beliefs with a particular political slant. What happens when a minister tells his or her people that their religion moves them to vote in a particular way? This brings down an alleged ultimate authority on political questions and tells the people in the pews that thinking for themselves about politics is not the answer. It puts a lot of power in the hands of ministers, and that makes them vulnerable to incentives from political campaigners looking to round up votes. Suddenly candidates are not just going to “battleground states,” but looking for big congregations or religious organizations to pick up a theologically enforced endorsement. It’s only a short step from there to completely theologizing politics. Then you can kiss your rational democratic republic and your informed electorate goodbye, because all the power lies in the hands of the religious leaders and elected officials become their puppets. And/or vice versa.

    But wait, we’ve been there before…

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 2:25 am
  10. Steve N wrote:

    And this is the 40th comment!

    Is that a record Funky?

    Blessings!

    Posted 23 Dec 2004 at 3:20 am
  11. alektra wrote:

    As a final thought:

    The explosion of Hannukah as a festival in America, as well as Kwanzaa, which was created in the 60’s, were to engage people who felt ostracized at the time in a very Christian-centric society. Hindu culture celebrates Diwali, which is a beautiful celebration of life and thanksgiving.

    It makes no sense to censor something that is intended to bring hope to any culture, religious or not. A peaceful message is good. Hannukah isn’t all that peaceful, but it is about giving thanks for being alive.

    I just wish the ACLU would fight for actual Christian rights and make the stores get rid of all the secular marketing “Xmas” stuff that deprives most people of the true meaning. And of their bank accounts, as well.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 6:44 pm
  12. Funky Dung wrote:

    Christine,

    I’m ever so grateful that you’ve brought such intelligent discourse to us. You have really given us something deep to ponder. How ever would we backward idiots have managed without your insightful commentary?

    Thank you for dropping by. It’s always nice to have a product of the Enlightenment grace us with their presense and chastise our medieval ways.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 4:23 am
  13. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Dear Christine: as hard as it is to come up with a rejoinder to a statement as eloquent as “you suck”, I think you’re misinterpreting this post. Funky was protesting that the ACLU is making it hard for Christians to celebrate Christmas by watering down any and all Christmas references. There is no similar restriction on Hannukah observances or Kwanzaa. It isn’t about shoving Christmas down people’s throats, it’s about the ACLU not shoving secularism down 80% of a America’s throats (the vast majority of this country profess Christianity, like it or not; by all means let Menorahs be in the public square, just let the 80% put up a creche or Christmas tree!).

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 3:23 am
  14. John wrote:

    Do you have any evidence that the ACLU is out to kill Christmas?

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 5:01 am
  15. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Don’t wanna see titties? Don’t watch the superbowl!

    Heh!

    Posted 21 Dec 2004 at 4:06 pm
  16. John wrote:

    Due to a four hour break in the middle of writing my post I hadn’t read all the comments thatt are now posted. I was responding to the post that had the quote I reference in it

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 8:02 am
  17. h2 wrote:

    For one specific, I could refer to the fuss that was made about certain Catholic leaders making even vague statements about not supporting pro-choice candidates in the last election. It’s an alarming trend when people start suggesting the government should ostracize religious leaders for emphasizing ideas consistent with their moral values — that’s what they’re supposed to do, whether or not you agree with them.

    Sorry, I don’t have time to dig up specific story links, but if you can’t recall anything from the news in the past few months that sounds like what I’m describing, I’m not sure we’re having the same conversation… On the other hand, if you do recall what I’m referring to, you should be able to understand that there have in deed been many people who’ve advocated silencing the pulpit on issues that relate to religious principle.

    This isn’t about Christians feeling especially persecuted as much as it is about violating that great principle of the constitution that forbids the persecution of anyone for, or prohibition from, religious preference or practice — what the establishment clause was actually intended to guard against.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 7:11 am
  18. h2 wrote:

    Funky’s point about the restrictions on speech within religious institutions is pretty much dead on, John. While such restrictions haven’t been upheld to any high degree as of yet, there is a mood among certain “enlightened” folk that they should be. So he’s right about that.

    Incidentally, Christine’s right about one thing too. All Americans should be practicing Christianity, though I don’t think any sane Christian leader advocates dragging people into the presence of a Christmas tree or Nativity scene.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 6:16 am
  19. Tom wrote:

    H2,

    There were several specific incidences, especially in the south/southren Mid-west I believe, where preachers/etc make comments suggusting that Kerry should not get a vote because of not being Pro-Choice.

    The tie? Religion suddenly invades politics. Has anything actually occured, or come from members of the government saying “Yes, we need to stop those people from saying those things”? No. That’s the distinction.

    I also am amused because it didn’t actually help public image, etc, etc. We have the Pope saying that those comments do not belong, and we have a church dividing along lines like any politician. *claps* great way to show things.

    My religion greatly did not favor Bush… but we did not preach or make public comments as a RELIGION against him, only as indivduals who happened to belong to the same religion.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 8:28 am
  20. h2 wrote:

    I think a distinction needs to be made here. Nobody here is suggesting that religious leaders should have a direct impact on state. The effect that’s been discussed here is the effect religious leaders have on their own followers (people who choose to attend and listen to them). Just because people are told something in church and they allow that to influence their decisions, whether in politics or other life areas in general, doesn’t equate to what occurs in a theocracy.
    The leap being made there is simply too huge.

    Incidentally, to avoid overloading Funky’s comment on a post that doesn’t seem like it was intended for this discussion, I have written my own post about divergent views of the establishment clause. For reasons why I think it’s paranoid and unconstitutional to curb religious speech in church, you can read it here.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 7:35 am
  21. Tom wrote:

    I would be interested to go and ask people from governments which endorse religion, or allow religion/politics to intertwine (theocracies, in effect, or close to it), if they like the idea of the US changing its historical views on the matter.

    I can think of one Iranian (secular state, but barely, and not for a long period of time), who is frightened to all heck about it, as well as one Egyptian.

    Food for thought.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 5:26 am
  22. John wrote:

    I wrote this in an earlier post but it bears being said twice.

    Quit whining. There is no vast anti-Christian conspiracy.

    You are not a victim.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 3:42 am
  23. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’ve quoted this post before in an earlier post but it bears repeating.

    “There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.”
    — GK Chesterton

    Are we martyrs? No. In that extreme sense we are not victims. Christianity, however, gets an unfairly harsh dose “justice” of political correctness police.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 3:51 am
  24. Funky Dung wrote:

    It is not yet a crime to speak freely about politics in a religious setting, but we’re getting ever closer. I don’t make a habit of saving every news story that bugs me, but I promise I’ll let you know when I next come across the suggestion or actualization of restricting speech in churches on the basis of preserving the establishment clause.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 5:34 am
  25. Funky Dung wrote:

    John,

    H2 is a Christian, as are we. You know darn well that our faith, though we believe it to be right, does not dictate that we enforce it upon anyone. It must be a free choice. However, it does have profound impacts on follwers’ moral foundation – or at least it should. Everyone has a moral foundation of some kind, including politicians. Why must a Christian politician leave his moral compass at the door of the legislature? Why must a Christian voter leave his faith at the polling place’s door? Example: Some believe that granting homosexual marriage and protecting a woman’s right to abort are a moral imperitives. A Christian should have opposing moral imperitives on those issues.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 2:30 pm
  26. John wrote:

    Lastly:
    “I just wish the ACLU would fight for actual Christian rights and make the stores get rid of all the secular marketing “Xmas” stuff that deprives most people of the true meaning. And of their bank accounts, as well.”

    Is it now your right to not be exposed to a notion of Christmas that disagrees with yours?

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 8:04 am
  27. h2 wrote:

    Let me clarify, because it appears obvious we are not communicating on quite the same wavelength.

    Funky said:
    “I’ll let you know when I next come across the suggestion or actualization of restricting speech in churches on the basis of preserving the establishment clause.”

    After which, I agreed with Funky, in that there have been such instances. After that assertion by me, John followed with a response that included this comment:
    “I do not see this pressure for silence that you’re citing”

    And that’s why I came up with the mention of Catholic leaders speaking from the pulpit regarding candidates’ positions on abortion. My point, and the only point I sought to make at that time, was that there has been pressure to silence religious leaders whose speech on religious principles have coincided with “political” themes. If the point I’m answering is about John not seeing the “pressure for silence”, then it’s irrelevant where the pressure is coming from – whether it’s the government, the media or activist organizations – it’s still pressure.

    And for the record, I whole-heartedly disagree with the premise that religious leaders shouldn’t be allowed to urge church members to vote according to religious principle. If you truly believe in your religion, how can it not affect every area of your life? And how can such speech in a religious setting violate the establishment clause (which was not intended to curb religion within it’s own forum, but rather in public forum, which a church is not really part of)? If a religious leader makes a statement from the pulpit that is consistent with religious principle, how is it the government’s business to have anything to say about it? Perhaps the church itself has a say in such matters, but not the state.

    I find it absolutely chilling that so many people (wherever they are in this country, or even on the political scale) seem to think it’s acceptable for the government to censor religious speech simply because it happens to have an effect on political activity. I know the government has yet to breach this ideal on any noticeable scale, but there are seemingly rational people who think government should (and they’re not all on one side of the fence, either).

    If the federal government were to wield the threat of lifting tax-exempt status for any otherwise exempt group whose guiding principles happened to coincide with political controversy, how would that not violate the establishment clause? Religion, among other things, has to be free, or this country can never live up to its ideals.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 10:13 am
  28. John wrote:

    Nobody at any point has said that the government should intervene to stop priests from advancing political positions. Some have said that if the church is going to advance a political agenda, then it should not be given the tax free status which the law expressly deniese to political organizations. But this has really only been a rhetorical device.

    However, some (for instance, me) have said that it is morally reprehensible that the Church should do that; and others (for instance, the Pope) have said that it is not appropriate for a Bishop or priest to tell people which candidate to vote for.

    There is a difference between saying that someone should not do something and saying that the state should intervene to stop them. That line has not been crossed.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 7:58 am
  29. John wrote:

    Of course I don’t believe that we should force our faiths on others. However, I appreciate that my beliefs are not entirely rationally consistent. If I were to believe that my faith was the only valid faith, it would not make sense for me to allow people to practice others.

    This is a compromise that we as a society accept. We limit ourselves in how we apply our theological certainty. We must do this or else society simply will not function.

    That’s what I was trying to get at in my remark about forcing religion.

    Posted 20 Dec 2004 at 1:57 am
  30. John wrote:

    Okay, critical thing. Of course the Church is going to remain a tax exempt organization. The statement that it shouldn’t is a purely rhetorical device.

    If you believe that your faith is right, why don’t you enforce it on others?

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 1:06 pm
  31. EmilyE wrote:

    Personally, I wish the ACLU would fight for the right of everyone to express his or her religion in the public square, instead of trying to strip the public square of all religious references whatsoever. Let Jews celebrate Hanukkah openly. Let Hindus celebrate Diwali openly. Let Muslims celebrate Ramadan openly. But let Christians celebrate Christmas openly, too.

    The ACLU often seems to act like it thinks that true tolerance can only be found in removing all religion from public life. But if we all pretend to be the same, that’s not true tolerance.

    On another note, the traditional Russian Orthodox Christmas greeting is:
    “Christ is born!”
    and the response:
    “Glorify Him!”

    I like that far better than the generic “Happy holidays” (which really means nothing at all).

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 8:46 pm
  32. Tom wrote:

    Question for H2:

    You want the ACLU to stop the secular X-mas celebrations? If you don’t like them, why not just ignore them? I do not particulary agree with the jewish holidays, but they do not concern me.

    X-mas has become a secular holiday for many people. That does not, and will not stop you from celebrating it the way you want to.

    That’s when the ACLU should step in. When you, me, Mr. Muslim and Mr. Jew, are stopped from celebrating their religion,holidays, and beliefs privately and personnaly, without forcing it upon others.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 11:31 pm
  33. John wrote:

    Saying “Eric’s right” does not constitute a reasoned support of his position. I still do not see anyone limiting the speach of someone in Church, or for that matter anyone yelling at people on a street corner.
    I do not see this pressure for silence that you’re citing.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 6:24 am
  34. Tom wrote:

    Sorry if I mis-read up there. It’s entirely possible- lots of good posts happening.

    Here is where I think we disagree H2. I don’t think any celebration should be stopped- but I believe that a religious celebration is inherently a matter of morals, faith, traditions, and more. It is not right for that to be forced upon anyone, in any sense.

    Secular, commerical Christmas is entirely based on how much you “buy” into it. Don’t wanna do it? Don’t go shopping.

    Perhaps I’m naive… but that’s what is flowing through my head right now 😉

    Posted 20 Dec 2004 at 8:07 pm
  35. Tom wrote:

    Steve,

    You are not hearing me right because I’m still struggling/understanding trying to figure this out in my head, so I do not always speak/type well when working through something like that. I’ll try to clear it up.

    Religious speech/thought more important in that each person’s right to have it should be protected more. Not that since it is protected more, religious thoughts/ideas/texts/whatever can be proclaimed more, forced on others more, etc. Commercialism is not important- so it doesn’t need that protection, either way. You don’t like it? Don’t participate. You can’t escape it? It’s not gonna hurt that much.

    Religion though. You don’t like the fact that people are saying prayers in school, people are hounding you, etc? That’s a strong, inherent, touchy, personal belief. That’s an issue, a foundation of personal ideals- whether you believe in something religiously or not at all.

    Maybe that cleared it up… I hope 😉

    41st 😉

    Posted 24 Dec 2004 at 5:39 am
  36. John wrote:

    to clarify: do you have any examples of a private citizen or group being prosecuted for engaging in Christianity on private property?

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 5:12 am
  37. John wrote:

    To h2:
    1)A priest saying vote for candidate A does not violate the establishment clause.
    2)It is still wrong for a priest to do that.

    You’re still doing a lot of hand waving. Where are these people clamoring for laws that will shut up priests? I have not heard anyone say that.

    As far as tax free status goes: we are a nation of laws. Our laws define what a non-profit organization is. These laws exclude political organizations. If the Church is a non-profit organization it is exempt from paying taxes, if it is a political organization, it is not.

    The really frightening comment in your post was “If you truly believe in your religion, how can it not affect every area of your life? ”
    This is not a reasoning that we can take into politics. Because if you truly believe that your religion is right, why not enforce it upon others? If you believe that your religion holds the entire truth, there is no cause for separation of Church and state. The only cause for tolerance is the lack of adequate force to impose your beliefs on others.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 7:59 am
  38. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Tom says:

    It is not right for that to be forced upon anyone, in any sense.

    In ANY sense? But Tom, isn’t this setting the bar rather high. Freedom of association (to assemble, and hence not to assemble) inherently militates against freedom of speech. A workable balance might be that, in general, you can’t immunize yourself from hearing (people exercising free speech), but you have a right not to listen (exercising your right to not “assemble”). You seem to advocate for the right to not even hear of opinions with which you may disagree. As St. Paul says (on a different subject), for that you would have to leave the world!

    In fact, your quip toward rank commercialism: “Don’t wanna do it? Don’t go shopping” suggests in fact that you accept this compromised state of affairs. I could easily rejoinder: Don’t want to see the nativity scene? Don’t go to the mall [or wherever the said scene is located].

    Cheers!

    Posted 21 Dec 2004 at 4:02 pm
  39. Funky Dung wrote:

    When Catholic leaders speak out against pro-choice politicans, they are NOT giving de facto endorsements of “the other guy”. The Church isn’t in the business of supporting or not supporting the two party system. Just because you reject a Democrat, doesn’t mean you must vote for a Republican and vice versa. Abortion is a non-negotiable issue in the Church. If you’re going to vote for a rabidly pro-choice candidate, you better have darn good reasons. That goes double for supposedly Catholic polticians who are pro-choice. Such individuals are representatives of the Church in the public fora (as we all are). Because of media scrutiny, they have great potential to misrepresent the Church and mislead people. The Church, just like any freely associating group, is perfectly within its rights to say that voting for certain types of candidates is incompatible with Church teachings, especially when those types claim to belong to the Church and be in good standing.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 3:07 pm
  40. Christine wrote:

    Wow, you’re an idiot.

    WE MUST FORCE CHRISTMAS ON ALL AMERICANS!! THEY SHOULD BE PRACTICING CHRISTIANITY ANYWAY.

    You suck.

    Posted 18 Dec 2004 at 2:17 am
  41. theomorph wrote:

    Yes, Funky, but there have always been constraints of circumstance on free speech. For instance, I cannot go into a classroom and teach public school children that religion is bunk. Sure, that would be free speech for me, but I would be doing it under the auspices of state authority. Parents are sending their children to school expecting the state to be neutral and not to tamper with the metaphysical beliefs they’re taught at home. But there’s a long, tortuous history of public education and what it’s for…

    When it comes to ministers getting up and supporting candidates, it’s a similar problem. They’re no longer speaking under the auspices of their own speech, they are speaking, if not for their God, at least for their denomination, sect, or organization. That is, they are throwing theological weight behind their political beliefs. However, there is nothing wrong with a minister as an individual participating in a public demonstration for or against a particular candidate. What’s the difference? In one context the minister is clearly acting according to his or her own conscience. In the other, the minister is allowing his or her own conscience to be (at least implicitly) conflated with the theological position of his or her church. This puts an odd weight on the parishioners, implying that their own personal beliefs and understanding must automatically devolve to the political position set forth by the minister. Free thought trumps free speech.

    Posted 19 Dec 2004 at 7:36 am

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