News: The War on Christmas
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As it educates and litigates on behalf of slighted Christmas celebrants, the Liberty Counsel says that its campaign for religious freedom is bearing fruit.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, various people have put to use the services of the Florida-based legal group, which has secured the free help of nearly 750 lawyers as part of its “Friend or Foe” of Christmas campaign.
Since it began in early November, the group says it has now handled scores of cases, with many already resolved.
“While the war on Christmas continues, the Christmas Grinches have been running for their lives. Retailers and government officials are learning that Christmas is here to stay,” said Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty counsel in a released statement.
The offer of free legal aid has been taken up in a variety of cases. From parties, to greetings, to private displays on public property, and decorations, Christmas-related legal matters have been resolved or are still pending. Hundreds of lawyers are ready to work without charge for the season.
In one recent suit, a pair of Florida cities wanted to keep away a nativity scene in a public park even though a Christmas tree and a large Menorah had already been allowed.
Ken Koenig, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville had requested from two neighboring cities sharing the same public park that he be allowed to display his private 40-inch tall nativity scene. However Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach, denied the request, stating that while the two allowed symbols were secular, the nativity scene was considered religious and could not be displayed.
Liberty Counsel took up the case, filing a First Amendment lawsuit on Dec. 6, which it called a “classic viewpoint-based discrimination” matter. Two days later the cities reversed their positions.
In another case, a door decorating contest sponsored by a high school in Washington D.C had stated in a bulletin that no religious Christmas themes were allowed. Only non-religious winter scenes were permitted, with the school’s principal emphasizing that decorations that broke with the acceptable theme would be disqualified.
In protest, students belonging to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Everest Senior High School gathered over 200 petitions opposing the rule. On behalf of the students, Liberty Counsel issued a demand letter to the Everest School District superintendent, stating that the discriminatory policy would be met with a lawsuit. A day later, after consulting with its attorneys, the school district said its policy was not in compliance with existing laws.
“For these students, the Christmas ‘Grinch’ is gone,” commented Staver. “They can now decorate their doors with the joy of Christmas. Private religious speech that occurs on public property is fully protected by the First Amendment. Christmas cannot be treated like contraband.”
In another case again involving a government entity – this time in New York City – a legal memo posted on the Liberty Counsel’s website was enough to aid employees of the Environmental Protection Agency to reclaim some Christmas spirit.
The agency had allowed Hanukkah banners and had previously allowed the celebration of Diwali, an Indian holiday. However the agency did not allow for Christmas banners, red and green decorations, and even took down a “holiday tree,” according to Liberty Counsel.
After the Liberty Counsel memo was circulated among the employees, 115 of them signed petitions demanding that the agency change its policies. It did and also apologized to them.
When Americans go Christmas shopping, many prefer to see stores use the traditional phrase “Merry Christmas” in their seasonal advertising rather than “Happy Holidays,” a new poll found.
The survey released by Rasmussen Reports after the Thanksgiving holiday showed that 67 percent of Americans favor “Merry Christmas” while only 26 percent would choose “Happy Holidays.”
The poll results were the same for men and women and presented few demographic differences.
But a comparison between responses from Republicans and Democrats, however, revealed a sharp contrast.
While 88 percent of Republicans prefer “Merry Christmas,” just 57 percent of Democrats favor the greeting.
Meanwhile, 57 percent of Americans say they will attend a Christian service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day this year, with women more likely to attend a Christmas service than men.
Nearly 30 percent of respondents say they won’t go to a special service.
Over the years, many businesses and retailers have removed the phrase “Merry Christmas” or references to Christmas from their stores and opted for a version like “Happy Holidays” instead.
In an attempt to encourage stores to retain references to the Dec. 25 holiday, a Christian legal group has released a “Naughty or Nice” list that advises Christians where to shop for Christmas.
Businesses and retailers are placed on the “Nice” list if they recognize Christmas and on the “Naughty” list if they censor such references.
The list was released as part of Fla.-based Liberty Counsel’s fifth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, in which the legal group is pledging to be a “Friend” to those entities which do not censor Christmas and a “Foe” to those that do.
The Rasmussen survey was based on a national telephone survey of 1,000 Adults, conducted from November 18-19, 2007. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
Every December, a call goes out from the nation’s pulpits to “put Christ back into Christmas,” but growing numbers of Americans – including fundamentalist Christians – are claiming Jesus Christ had nothing to do with the holiday, and news items from across the country this week indicate that the U.S. has become the new battleground for Christmas.
Cases in point:
* A first-grade teacher in Sacramento Co., Calif., says her principal has prohibited instructors from uttering the word “Christmas” in class or in written materials;
* A school superintendent in Yonkers, N.Y., banned, then unbanned, holiday decorations that contained religious themes more than the generic “season’s greetings”;
* New York City schools are being sued for alleged discrimination against Christians;
* and atheists reposted their vandalized winter solstice sign in the Wisconsin Capitol, as they declare “Christians stole Christmas” from ancient pagans.
All this comes on the heels of a national survey indicating just over a tenth of Americans today believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the focus of Christmas, with almost nine out of ten people saying the holiday has become less religious.
Are atheists correct that the very day set aside by hundreds of millions across the world to honor the birth of their Savior is merely a relic of sun worship? And if it is, why would some schools ban it? And even if today’s holiday traditions have their roots in heathen practices, should Christians who wish to be true to their faith take part?
Sign of the times
“The real reason for the season is winter solstice,” proclaims Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation which re-erected its atheistic message Monday in the rotunda of the state seat of government.
After six years on display, her placard had been damaged last December by an unknown assailant, and has since been repaired.
The front of the sign states: “At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
The back reads: “State/Church: Keep them separate,” and carries a little caveat, advising “Thou shalt not steal.”
The 23-by-30-inch billboard was OK’d as part of Wisconsin’s seasonal display which also features menorahs, angels, and what appears to be a giant Christmas tree more than two stories tall.
“We call it a ‘holiday’ tree,” said Brian Hayes, deputy secretary for Wisconsin’s department of administration. “We’re trying to be sensitive to [the public].”
That politically correct terminology comes despite the dismissal of a lawsuit last year where the message content of items adorning the state tree had been challenged, yet it’s indicative of the thought-conscious age of the 21st century.
Banned in the USA
The fact that atheists view Christmas with disdain is not astonishing, since they’ve attempted to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” from U.S. currency, as well as Ten Commandments displays from numerous publicly owned places.
What may be surprising, though, is that some devout Christians, many dating all the way back to the days of Jesus, never celebrated the birth of Christ, nor sought to. America’s early colonists banned observance of Christmas, and still today, there are many Christians abstaining from what millions more of their brethren joyfully celebrate as God’s coming in human form.
The Catholic Encyclopedia states, ‘“the word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131.”
It explains “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church,” pointing out “first evidence of the feast is from Egypt” around A.D. 200 with attempts by theologians to assign not only the year of Christ’s birth, but also the precise date.
Historians agree that through the subsequent centuries, traditions from ancient pagan (non-Christian) religions became intertwined with those of Christianity, and depending upon one’s point of view, either paganism became Christianized, or Christianity became paganized.
In 1644, the English Parliament outlawed the holiday, compelling shops to be open that day, and condemning plum puddings and mince pies as “heathen.”
In his Pulitzer Prize finalist, “The Battle for Christmas,” historian Stephen Nissenbaum at the University of Massachusetts documents the American development of the holiday now ensconced in popular culture.
“In New England, for the first two centuries of white settlement,” writes Nissenbaum, “most people did not celebrate Christmas. In fact, the holiday was systematically suppressed by Puritans during the colonial period and largely ignored by their descendants. It was actually illegal to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681 (the fine was five shillings). Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did Christmas gain legal recognition as an official public holiday in New England.”
Nissenbaum agrees with other historians that the first recorded observance since the New Testament recounted Christ’s birth took place hundreds of years after Jesus’ resurrection.
“It was only in the fourth century that the Church officially decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25. And this date was not chosen for religious reasons but simply because it happened to mark the approximate arrival of the winter solstice, an event that was celebrated long before the advent of Christianity. The Puritans were correct when they pointed out – and they pointed it out often – that Christmas was nothing but a pagan festival covered with a Christian veneer.”
Christmas in America saw huge growth during the 19th century, starting with Washington Irving’s 1820 book “The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall.” A week before Christmas in 1834, Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol,” and in 1860, American illustrator Thomas Nast created Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus, based on European stories of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.
Spirit of the rising sun
Today, followers of ancient paganism strive to remind the public about the heathen origins of traditions that many may never have questioned. They’ve published books, given speeches, and created websites proffering a heathen history of modern customs.
CircleSanctuary.org is among the Internet addresses run by nature-worshipping pagans. Wiccan high priestess Selena Fox discusses the state of being pagan and celebrating the lengthening of days during the Northern Hemisphere’s darkest time of year.
“Yule, the winter solstice, is a festival of peace and a celebration of waxing solar light. I honor the new sun child by burning a[n] oaken yule log in a sacred fire. I honor the great goddess in her many great mother aspects, and the father god as Santa in his old sky god, father time, and holly king forms. I decorate my home with lights and with holly, ivy, mistletoe, evergreens and other herbs sacred to this season. I ring in the new solar year with bells.”
Fox even provides a list of suggestions on how 21st century citizens can take part in the ancient rituals, to “re-paganize” Christmastime:
* Have gift exchanges and feasts over the course of several days and nights as was done of old
* Adorn the home with sacred herbs and colors; decorate in druidic holiday colors of red, green and white
* Hang a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold and leave it there until next yule as a charm for good luck throughout the year
* Have family/household members join together to make or purchase an evergreen wreath
* If you choose to have a living or a harvested evergreen tree as part of your holiday decorations, call it a solstice tree and decorate it with pagan symbols
* Reclaim Santa Claus as a pagan godform by decorating him with images that reflect his various heritages ranging from the Greek god Cronos (father time) to Odin, the Scandinavian all-father riding the sky on an eight-legged horse
* Place pagan mother-goddess images around your home, possibly including one with a sun child, such as Isis with Horus
* Honor the new solar year with light – light candles, burn a yule log and save a portion for the following year, put colored lights outside your home, and with the popularity of five-pointed stars, consider displaying a blue or white pentagram.
The greatest story never told?
The pagan connections to Christmas are not news to the likes of Garner Ted Armstrong, a Christian evangelist and political commentator based in Tyler, Texas. Armstrong has been proclaiming such information for the past 46 years on a peak of 135 television and 360 radio stations, stating “it is impossible to ‘put Christ back in Christmas,’ since He was never in Christmas in the first place!”
“None of the apostles of Christ ever heard of the term; not one of them ever celebrated Christ’s birthday,” writes Armstrong in his booklet “Christmas ... The Untold Story.” “The words Christmas, holly wreath, mistletoe, Rudolph, Santa Claus and Christmas tree do not appear anywhere in the Bible.”
Armstrong is among Christians who believe God’s plan of salvation for mankind is more accurately depicted through holidays which are frequently mentioned in Scripture, such as Passover and the Day of Atonement. If anything, he thinks Dec. 25 would most likely be Jesus’ conception day, thus placing his birth in the autumn, possibly during the Feast of Tabernacles, symbolizing God’s “tabernacling” – that is to say, dwelling – with mankind.
Like-minded preachers say the Bible warns extensively about adopting pagan customs, pointing to the 10th chapter of Jeremiah to specifically cite the practice of tree decoration, which some historians date back to ancient Egypt and Babylon:
“Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (Jer 10:2-4)
Armstrong says the pagan celebrations, including winter’s Saturnalia, or feast of Saturn in ancient Rome, crept into ostensible Christianity over many years, and some writers began urging a celebration at the same time as the secular events “for the simple reason that so many pagans were already accustomed to ‘joyous,’ sometimes ‘riotous’ orgies of feasting at the time of the winter solstice.”
“It would be a sin for me [to celebrate Christmas], but it doesn’t mean it’s the unpardonable sin,” Armstrong told WorldNetDaily, stressing he doesn’t feel at all threatened by the holiday.
“I have no more difficulty walking through Beijing at the Chinese New Year and seeing the dragons and fireworks. It doesn’t affect me. ... [the Apostle] Paul says the idol is nothing.”
While Armstrong teaches against the observance of Christmas, he adds that most people who celebrate it are doing so with good intentions, simply unaware of the facts regarding its origins, and they should neither be judged nor condemned by fellow believers in Jesus. He encourages people to type words like “origins of Christmas” into Internet search engines to find out for themselves the background on the customs.
Angels in the outfield
For millions of Christians, the story of Christmas in the Bible is among the most beloved, and is one of their foundations of faith – that God came to dwell as a man and offer eternal life to mankind. It is both simple enough to be understood by young children, and has majestic meaning to provide adults with inspiration and awe.
The events surrounding the birth of Christ are recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which give an almost play-by-play description:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14)
The shepherds subsequently found the child in the manger, but unlike depictions on many modern holiday cards and Nativity scenes, there were no wise men present at the birth. The Gospel of Matthew says the Magi arrived at a house, not the manger. And as for the tradition of three wise men, the Bible never mentions their number – only the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those gifts were presented to Jesus, not exchanged with other people.
The accounts don’t mention a tree – evergreen or otherwise – nor do they specify the time of year. Some analysts theorize that since the shepherds were still out in the fields by night watching their flocks, the event could not have been in winter, due to plunging temperatures. Still others think Dec. 25 has a valid claim on the actual event.
Spirit of the rising Son
“I believe the celebration of Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to honor Christ and share the gospel,” says Rev. Jerry Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia and one of America’s best known ministers. Falwell is a staunch defender of the holiday he’s celebrated for every one of the 69 years he’s been alive.
“And I plan to celebrate it on the ‘other side,’” he tells WorldNetDaily.
Falwell acknowledges that many of the customs associated with the observance are not found in the Bible, but he doesn’t have a problem with that.
“The Christmas tree and Santa Claus don’t bother me,” he said. “If we can use anything to get people under the sound of the gospel, without violating Scripture, it’s a good thing.”
While there are some unknowns such as the exact date of birth, Falwell stresses “we do know He was born – virgin-born as the Son of God.”
Yet over 2,000 years after that history-changing event, most Americans think Christ is fading from the Christmas picture, at least according to a recent poll.
When the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University asked if “most people focus on the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, or has the holiday become less religious than it used to be?” only 11 percent said they believed Christmas was still about Jesus, with 87 percent responding “less religious.”
Close to half of adults – 45 percent – say they personally know someone who doesn’t believe in God, but still will celebrate the holiday this year; 62 percent say they’ll attend a religious service on Christmas Eve or Day; and 81 percent plan to put a decorated tree in their home this year.
“Do I put up a tree? I have in the past; this year I won’t,” says Jose Negron, a 34-year-old Christian minister at the Stonehouse Church to the Nations in Toano, Va. Even without the tree, he still plans to celebrate Christmas.
“I grew up in America. It’s an historical constant,” Negron said.
Indeed, trees and their decoration have played a role in American history, even in the nation’s darkest hours. In 1942, just a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to Washington to join President Franklin Roosevelt in lighting the National Christmas Tree, a tradition started by Calvin Coolidge in 1923.
“Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God’s care for us all men everywhere,” said Roosevelt.
Thousands of citizens turned out for the event, which was broadcast nationwide on radio in the grips of World War II.
“Let the children have their night of fun and laughter,” proclaimed Churchill. “Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied the right to live in a free and decent world.”
The tree-lighting ceremonies continue to this day, with President George W. Bush having two dedications under his belt.
The history of mankind’s fascination with trees long antedates World War II, the founding of America, and even the Middle Ages. Historians have found evidence of tree decoration and tree worship in places such as ancient Rome and Egypt. The Old Testament also records God’s displeasure with his own people for following pagan practices involving trees:
* “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.” (Judges 3:7)
* “For the Lord shall smite Israel ... because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger.” (1 Kings 14:15)
* “For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.” (1 Kings 14:23)
In the 1800s, Alexander Hislop, a noted historian of antiquity, examined the origins of customs such as the Christmas tree and date of celebration. Writing in “The Two Babylons,” Hislop maintains the practice derives from the worship of pagan deities.
The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in pagan Rome and pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the pagan Messiah. ... The mother of Adonis, the sun god and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been [recognized] as the “Man the branch.” And this entirely accounts for the putting of the yule log into the fire on Christmas Eve, and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning. ...
Therefore, the 25th of December, the day that was observed at Rome as the day when the victorious god reappeared on earth, was held at the Natalis invicti solis, “The birthday of the unconquered sun.” Now the yule log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun god, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus – the slain god come to life again.
“I can count about a hundred trees, wreaths, poinsettia displays, lights, everywhere I look [in my office] complex,” says Bob Sipsky, of Stuart, Fla. “Christmas gorge-as-much-food-as-you-can eat-a-ramas every day for two weeks. Enough already.”
Sipsky is a Bible believer not affiliated with any organized church. He celebrated Christmas for 35 years before abandoning it, now thinking it an insult to God.
“There are clearly explained festivals that God tells us to observe, which teach how to have peace on earth, and what the true Savior requires of us,” Sipsky says, “yet mankind ignores these, and prefers to make up his own festivals and traditions. Christmas is based in deception: its origins; lying to small children about Santa Claus; talking about having peace on earth while ignoring God’s instructions on how to achieve it; saying it is biblical, while 99 percent of it is all about commerce and other selfish objectives. Myths and traditions do not please the God of the Bible, a right way of living does. Deception is at the top of the list of what He hates.”
That anti-Christmas view is echoed by Tom Moniz of Hobe Sound, Fla. “Being a God-fearing man, I cannot honor a lie, nor do I think adopting a pagan holiday and calling it his birthday does any honor to him.”
“Most of these people are killjoys,” says Rev. Falwell regarding those who attack the celebration of Christmas. “Most of these tightwads just don’t want to [spend] cash. ... I don’t take my children or grandchildren near them.”
To many Christians, Christmastime is among the most sacred times of the year, and they look to keep it that way.
“It’s the reason for being a Christian, because we believe Jesus is God,” says Louis Giovino, director of communications for the New York-based Catholic League, the nation’s largest Catholic civil-rights organization.
With recent controversies surrounding Christmas in the public arena, the league has issued a list of guidelines to help people understand what kind of religious expression is permissible at this time of year.
Giovino admits the observance has picked up some pagan customs over the years, but says they’ve been “baptized” by the Church. He notes by the time of Dickens in England, the holiday took on a more raucous tone, with drinking parties and violence, and says the Protestant legislation to outlaw Christmas was in direct response to the riotous revelry.
“The Puritans weren’t into celebrating anything,” he said.
Giovino stresses the important part of Christmas is the larger picture of the Christian message, the belief that “the Word became flesh.”
“It’s not like saying ‘Happy birthday, Jesus!’” he exclaimed. “I think personally Christmas is ridiculous without Christ. Otherwise, we might as well celebrate the winter solstice as pagans.”
The baby with the bathwater?
With the extremes on Christmas observance ranging from total holiday indulgence to complete abstention, there are plenty of people who seek middle ground. Pastor Richard Bucher of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton, Mass., is one of them, asserting celebrating Christmas is not pagan.
“It’s laudable that certain Christians care so much about pleasing God to ask the question if it’s right,” Bucher told WorldNetDaily, “but a lot of arguments they’re making are just not sound. They end up placing guilt on Christians celebrating Christmas and do a real disservice.”
On his church website, Bucher addresses examples such as the tree decorated with silver and gold in Jeremiah’s 10th chapter, and explains upon close examination, it does not refer to anything like a Christmas tree.
“The very next verse, 10:5, goes on to say, ‘Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’ This passage and the passages that follow make it crystal clear that the ‘decorated tree’ that Jeremiah was talking about in 10:3-4, was a tree that was cut down and made into an idol, a very common custom in the ancient world.”
“Just because heathens took something God has created for good,” he asks, “does that mean such things are off limits [to Christians] permanently?”
He says many have invented sin where God has not said that something is sinful, and adds the issue boils down to what exactly is meant by “Christmas.”
“Is it thanking God for the birth of the Savior, or everything that people do associated with it? People just lump everything together.”
Despite all the conflict, some believers have little problem with the controversies over Christmas; in fact, they rejoice in them.
“Those who would attempt to take Christ out of Christmas are fighting a losing battle,” says Joan Driscoll of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “The harder they try, the stronger the holy message and meaning of Jesus’ birth becomes. The heavenly voices of the angels singing ‘Alleluia’ will easily drown out the guttural tones of the dissenters.”
by Doug Giles
What the heck is up with all the Merry Christmasphobia? Especially within our Public School system where during this season they outlaw certain flowers, ban particular colors, prohibit the display of Santa’s image, bar Christmas trees and tie their tongues in knots trying to rename Christmas?
Isn’t it odd that the Public School Admin wizards get their support hose wedgied regarding Christmas, all the while they seem to be extremely zealous about teaching our 1st -12th graders everything and more than what they need to know about sex?
Yeah, they’re cool with adding a fourth “R,” namely raunch, to the three basic “R’s” of education. It appears to be no problemo to teach our young’uns how to masturbate, and school officials seem to be pretty breezy about hosting gay and lesbian clubs; but darn iit, you’d better not wear red and green, bring a poinsettia to your teacher, have a baby Jesus lying in a manger, whistle “Silent Night” or have a Santa Claus sticker on your notebook because that . . . that . . . is beyond the pale. At least it is ever since the ACLU began contorting the Constitution like a mad Mike Tyson twisting his Gumby doll.
The Christmasphobia seems to have seeped outside of the Pubic Fool System and has also hit the streets. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve got to think for 30 to 40 seconds about how I am to wish one well during the Christmas season for fear that the ACLU will send some soulless lawyer to my house to sue me because of an insensitive greeting.
Before, I just used to say, “Merry Christmas.” Now, I have to do CIA-like profiling trying to figure out what religion said person is before I launch a holiday howdy. Are they Christian? Muslim? Satanist? Atheist? Do they look like they have enough money to take legal action against me if I get the greeting wrong and they become deeply wounded by my well wish? It’s madness. To remedy the situation, now I just blow off saying anything aside from, “Wassup?”
Not only has this new found phobia regarding the Yuletide infected our dysfunctional schools and hamstrung our greetings in the streets, it’s also crept into retail where stores like Target put a moratorium on everything to do with Christmas, including giving the Salvation Army the boot. Hey, Grinch-like Targetmeisters, the multiple millions of us here in Hooville are going to be buying our cheap stuff somewhere else this Christmas season. So, Happy Festivus, Target, and I hope your profits and stock don’t tumble too dramatically as we take our business elsewhere.
I wonder how long it’s going to be before the anti-war morons move to prohibit Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day because they are offended at the thought of honoring those who fought for and those who died for our country.
With all the PC stuff swirling around in the secular toilet bowl of our school systems, one can be paralyzed as to what he can and can’t do, what he can and can’t say. Herewith, my brethren, is a simple guide regarding what you’re allowed to say and do without going to jail, or being fined millions of dollars, or getting expelled or fired, or being executed in the public square. The following bullet points were ripped out of Alan Sears and Craig Osten’s book, The ACLU vs. America, with some obvious ad lib from me.
Y’know, there’s probably just a very few people who are popping a blood vein in their foreheads and spouting this anti-Christmas rhetoric. More than likely they aren’t the constitutionalists they’ve propped themselves up to be, but rather, failed actors who couldn’t get extra work on B-flicks who have found a way to get in front of a TV camera by being a jerk. What’s the matter? Did mommy not pay enough attention to you when you were little? Did she miss your 3rd grade Christmas play when you starred as Blitzen, and so now you hate Christmas and you want to get her back while making us all pay in the process?
Furthermore, if some citizens want to Ichabod Crane themselves away from our holiday cheer, I say let ‘em. Yes, we could even create a city for them where they can go and live their secularized dream life, perhaps somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area or somewhere around Boston. We could call this religiously-scrubbed, Lysol-disinfected place, “I’mapaininthebuttville,” and there they could have their sterile, religion-free environment and celebrate . . . nothing.
And lastly, secularists, please . . . don’t flatter yourselves by thinking that our celebrating Christ’s birthday is an effort to convert you. Relax. We’re not trying to evangelize anyone. This, like so many other things, is not about you. We simply want to pause and recognize the birth of the most powerful figure in our world’s history, namely, Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has told federal officials that the lighted, decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol — known in recent years as the “Holiday Tree” — should be renamed the “Capitol Christmas Tree,” as it was called until the late 1990s.
The Capitol’s senior landscape architect confirmed the name switch yesterday for The Washington Times.
“It was known as the ‘Holiday Tree’ for several years and just recently was changed back to the ‘Capitol Christmas Tree.’ This was a directive from the speaker,” said Capitol architect Matthew Evans.
“The speaker believes a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and it is as simple as that,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for the Illinois Republican.
The Capitol tree, traditionally overshadowed by the White House’s “National Christmas Tree,” was renamed a “holiday tree” several years ago, according to the Capitol Architect’s offices, in an effort to acknowledge the other holidays of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah — although no one seemed to know exactly when the name was changed or by whom.
Calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree has become a politically charged prospect in jurisdictions across the country — from Boston to Sacramento and in dozens of communities in between.
“It’s a growing problem,” said Jared N. Leland, spokesman and legal counsel for the Becket Fund, a District-based legal and educational institute. “Celebrating the season with Christmas trees ... and leaving them named ‘Christmas’ is simply recognizing the religious nature of people. Christmas should be able to be called Christmas.”
The debate boiled over in Boston last week when the city’s Web site referred to a giant tree erected on Boston Common as a “holiday tree.”
The new name drew the ire of Christians and evangelical leader the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose law group the Liberty Counsel threatened to sue if the tree wasn’t rechristened with Christmas.
“The Boston Christmas tree situation is symbolic of what’s happening ... around the country,” said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. “Government officials, either because of misinformation, or private retailers, for politically correct reasons, are trying to secularize Christmas.
“To rename a Christmas tree as a holiday tree is as offensive as renaming a Jewish menorah a candlestick,” Mr. Staver said.
The Nova Scotia logger who cut down the 48-foot tree for Boston also was indignant. Donnie Hatt said he would not have donated the tree if he had known of the name change.
“I’d have cut it down and put it through the chipper,” Mr. Hatt told a Canadian newspaper. “If they decide it should be a holiday tree, I’ll tell them to send it back. If it was a holiday tree, you might as well put it up at Easter.”
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he would refer to the 48-foot-tall white spruce as a Christmas tree during lighting ceremonies on Thursday. The city has since referred to the tree as a Christmas tree on its Web site.
In California last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rescinded former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ five-year tradition of calling the state capitol’s Christmas tree a “holiday tree.” Mr. Schwarzenegger said the tree will be a Christmas tree as long as he’s in office, and staff confirmed yesterday that the governor will call the tree a Christmas tree this year.
Cities and counties in the Washington area increasingly are dropping the reference to Christ. Localities such as Alexandria, Greenbelt and Baltimore County will hang their lights on politically correct “holiday” trees.
“The words are used interchangeably,” said Janet Barnett, of the city of Alexandria, which held its tree lighting on Friday. “We put up the trees to celebrate the season.”
In Annapolis, the city’s annual “Hanging of the Greens” — the decorating of public buildings, shops and streets with live greens and ribbons — and the lighting of the “holiday tree” this weekend are purposely named so as to not favor one belief over another.
“It’s a sensitivity for people of different faiths,” said city spokeswoman Jan Hardesty. “We celebrate a lot of different customs — not necessarily just a religious one.”
This year’s Capitol tree, an 80-foot Engelmann spruce from New Mexico, arrived Sunday and was unveiled in a ceremony yesterday. The tree will be secured and displayed opposite the Washington Monument, on the building’s West Lawn and will be decorated with 10,000 lights and 6,000 ornaments created by students in New Mexico.
President Bush will light the National Christmas Tree, which stands south of the White House on the Ellipse, at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Yesterday, the White House also received its Christmas tree for the Blue Room. A horse-drawn wagon delivered the 18?-foot Fraser fir, marking the official start of the holiday decorating season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“This is a very fun tradition, the delivery of the Christmas tree to the White House,” first lady Laura Bush said. “This is the 40th year the National Christmas Tree Growers Association has given the White House the magnificent tree — the biggest tree there.”
THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS
By John Gibson Sentinel, $24.95, 186 pages
This is a book about the First Amendment, specifically where its two provisions about church and state intersect. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” John Gibson’s point is that in its zeal to secularize every aspect of public life, the American Civil Liberties Union has focused on the former at the expense of the latter. This effort has, every year for about three decades, taken the form of a war on Christmas. “The wagers... are a cabal of secularists, so-called humanists, trial lawyers, cultural relativists and liberal, guilt-racked Christians,” according to the author.
The ACLU has, Mr. Gibson writes, been “providing the legal muscle and pretzel logic” in this war. People for the American and Way, Americans for the Separation of Church and State and others have served as cheering sections for ACLU efforts to bully various school districts and municipalities to bend to its demands, he says.
Mr. Gibson cites several examples, such as the Plano, Texas, school district that banned green and red paper plates from holiday parties; the school district in Kansas which fired its veteran Santa Claus because he told students that the we celebrate Christmas Day as the day Jesus was born; and the district in Covington, Ga., which stopped referring to the Christmas break on its printed calendar.
The author quotes an attorney of the National Schools Boards Association, “When schools observe religious holidays by closing school, the legally acceptable reason they are doing it is the kids won’t be there anyway.” Mr. Gibson says this is as true of Muslim holidays in largely Muslim Dearborn, Mich. as it is of Christmas. He notes that schools nationwide celebrate Christmas as a holiday because “authoritative polling figures [on the percentage of Christians in America] range from 72 percent to 84 percent.” He cites Pew Poll Research Council figures for 2002.
Typically, demands leading to these bans begin with a letter from the ACLU, threatening legal action if the school district does not comply. School administrators think of their tight budgets and the potentially ruinous cost of defending a lawsuit and usually cave in. The ACLU and its allies have carried on this campaign for so long, the author says, that proscriptions on Christmas have seeped into the culture and are assumed to be true. In fact, many are not based on court decisions. For example, the Supreme Court has never said a Christmas tree is unconstitutional. Nor has the high court found unconstitutional the singing of Christmas carols in school, saying “Merry Christmas” or printing the word “Christmas” on a public document such as a school calendar.
The intimidation by the ACLU so rattles school administrators, Mr. Gibson says, that in one school district, officials banned the playing of purely orchestral versions of Christmas carols. In another, when children brought small packets of gifts to give to one another, the packets were confiscated because one student brought a packet that included candy canes described as being curved to represent the “J” in “Jesus.” This may have pleased the ACLU, but it abridged the student’s right to free expression. This student-to-student communication was constitutional.
Last December, the school superintendent in Mustang, Okla., responding to an ACLU complaint, abruptly struck a Nativity scene and “Silent Night” from the annual school pageant, despite the fact both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa references were included. He called the district’s attorney who, being trained, as attorneys are, to be risk-averse, recommended he comply with the demand. Two weeks after his decision, a school bond issue was defeated. Determined to solve the problem in the future, he turned to the First Amendment Center for advice. The center’s Dr. Charles Haynes showed the superintendent a “third way,” in which the curriculum could include teaching about various religions in the schools without practicing them. Symbols, such as Christmas trees, could be included. Thus, the sensitivities of non-Christians and Christians could be satisfied.
Mr. Gibson, who has a daily show on the Fox News Channel, conducted many interviews for this book, including ACLU lawyers, school superintendents, city managers, parents and others. His advice to school districts and municipalities that face ACLU demands is to call for help in planning policy and curriculum from the First Amendment Center (a non-lawyer organization) or for legal advice from countervailing legal services such as the Rutherford Institute, the American Center for Law and Justice and the Thomas More Law Center and the Alliance Defense Fund. As the author shows, the war on Christmas and thus free expression, can be fought on more than one front.
Peter Hannaford is a Washington writer.
After declaring victory in a battle over “Merry Christmas” with Macy’s, an activist group has turned its attention to Sears, urging Americans to boycott the retail giant during this peak shopping season.
Sears has rejected several requests that “Merry Christmas” signs be returned and posted in stores and that its advertising acknowledge and respect the time-honored phrase, says the Committee to Save Merry Christmas.
As WND reported, the group launched a boycott in May 2004 against Macy’s and its umbrella Federated Department Stores, Inc., which operates more than 450 outlets in 34 states.
Pointing to a letter of agreement from Macy’s, the activist group’s chairman, Manuel Zamarano, said, “On behalf of every American who celebrates the real meaning of Christmas, we applaud Macy’s decision and hope other retailers will follow their lead.”
Zamarano now urges “pro-Christmas Americans” to avoid the “bah, humbug attitude” of Sears this Christmas shopping season.
“Sears is in need of an extreme makeover in regards to their discrimination and bias against Christmas,” said Zamorano. “Over the past several years, Sears has systematically removed references to Merry Christmas. Inviting us to shop for Christmas gifts, yet eliminating Merry Christmas, is offensive to the sensibilities of millions of average Americans.”
Tuesday, the home-improvement retailer Lowe’s dropped references to “Holiday Trees” in favor of “Christmas Trees” just one day after a WorldNetDaily story brought national exposure.
Also, after a series of reports by WND, Wal-Mart officials satisfied demands by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which had called for a national boycott after accusing the chain of discriminating against Christmas while promoting other seasonal holidays by name, such as Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.
RALEIGH, N.C. — At Fig’s Market, some products in the store say “merry Christmas,” but the store window displays do not.
“We definitely don’t want to offend anybody,” said Fig’s Market co-owner Jill Kucera. “We want everybody to celebrate the holiday that suits them and we want to be open to everybody.”
But Pastor Patrick Wooden believes being “open” closes the door on Christmas.
“The way I see it is retailers want to make Christmas money without acknowledging Christmas,” Wooden said.
So, his church, the Upper Room Church, is doing its own acknowledging.
To grab the public’s attention, the church is putting on a media blitz that includes advertisements in the newspaper, on the radio and on television — costing the church approximately $11,000.
The advertisements even encourage shoppers to patronize businesses that use the phrase “merry Christmas.”
Critics argue the Upper Room Church should have spent the campaign’s $11,000 on helping the poor, but Wooden said the money is well spent. He adds the church helps the poor locally every week and has also donated money to hurricane victims.
Some storeowners also call Wooden anti-Jewish, anti-Islamic and anti-Buddhist, but he says he is simply being pro-Christmas.
“If there was a store that had merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, happy Kwanzaa, season’s greetings and the like, I would have no problem spending my money in that store,” Wooden said.
And if the stores do not?
“If they don’t, as Americans, it’s their right,” Wooden said.
Government offices and political agencies in the District were as delicate as snowflakes yesterday when discussing what they call the Christmas trees inside their buildings — with some exceptions.
“The calendar the federal government gave to us said ‘Christmas holiday,’ so we’re saying it’s a Christmas tree,” said Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Parnell of the D.C. National Guard.
The recent concern among Christians about efforts to make Christmas a secular holiday was reignited when The Washington Times reported Tuesday that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert directed officials to rename the tree on the Capitol’s West Lawn the “Capitol Christmas Tree.”
“I strongly urge that we return to this tradition and join the White House, countless other public institutions and millions of American families in celebrating the holiday season with a Christmas tree,” Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, wrote in a Nov. 16 letter to Architect of the Capitol Alan M. Hantman.
The first Capitol tree in 1964 was known as a Christmas tree but was renamed a holiday tree in the mid-1990s to acknowledge other cultural traditions, sources said. Nobody knows who ordered the change or when it occurred, however.
In Boston last week, the city’s reference to a tree on Boston Common as a “holiday tree” drew threats of legal action from the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s law group, the Liberty Counsel. The city has since referred to the tree as a Christmas tree.
First lady Laura Bush is among those sticking with tradition.
Mrs. Bush said yesterday the first family’s 18 ?-foot Fraser fir — in the Blue Room and adorned this year with crystal ornaments and white lilies — would be called a Christmas tree.
“We know that Americans celebrate the season in a lot of different ways, but I think we’ve always called this the White House Christmas tree. And I think it’s particularly beautiful this year,” she said.
President Bush will light the National Christmas Tree, which stands south of the White House on the Ellipse, today at 5 p.m.
Mr. Hastert will help light the Capitol Christmas Tree during a ceremony next Thursday.
Though Mr. Hastert and the Bush family firmly believe in the Christmas tree, some in government and political offices seemed more concerned yesterday about not offending others.
The 6-foot-tall, light-covered trees inside the Department of Transportation’s four D.C. buildings are called “holiday trees,” said Carolene Bloomfield, a community-activity coordinator for the agency
“When having a Christmas party, we don’t call it that,” she said. “Although it’s tradition to call it Christmas, we call it holiday.”
Miss Bloomfield also said the agency uses “holiday tree” so everybody inside the buildings “feels good” about themselves.
“You have to make it seem as though nobody is left out,” she said. “In America, you want everybody to feel special, so you call it a holiday.”
At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, spokesman Brian Sullivan said a tree in the agency cafeteria — alongside a Hanukkah menorah — will be called a Christmas tree.
“It’s a Christmas tree, for heaven’s sakes,” he said. “People call it what it is, generally speaking.”
Other offices said they simply had not thought about what to call their trees — or were perhaps playing coy to avoid the debate.
“We do have a tree in our lobby,” said Chad Colby with the Department of Education. “We don’t have an official name for it. ... We’ve never been asked.”
The Library of Congress and the Department of the Interior hang holiday decorations but do not have names for them.
“There are two trees outside the secretary’s office decorated for the holidays, but I don’t know what they’re being called. They don’t have a sign on them,” said Dan DuBray, a spokesman for the Interior Department, which issues permits to cut live Christmas trees through its Bureau of Land Management offices.
There is no official tree inside the Pentagon, and none were seen yesterday inside the House and Senate office buildings.
“There are always Christmas trees up in the building,” Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said. “If [employees] wants to put up one, that’s their call. There is no directive that says do. There is no directive that says don’t.”
by Jennifer Biddison
Several years ago, a boss of mine wished me a Happy Hanukkah, wrongly assuming that I was Jewish. Did I get offended? Of course not. I laughed hard, reminded him that I went to a Christian college, and still tease him about it all these years later.
That’s why I just can’t understand why folks get so up in arms these days when the topic of Christmas arises. According to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas. Yet businesses and schools are often hesitant – or even afraid – to recognize the holiday. As you walk around the mall this month, notice how many store signs skip “Merry Christmas” in favor of a general, meaningless holiday greeting.
What do people think happens to the other 4% of Americans upon hearing Nat King Cole croon once again about roasting chestnuts? Do they melt? Turn into stone? Run into oncoming traffic? I doubt it. Almost 9 in 10 Americans said in a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that it’s fine to wish others “Merry Christmas.”
Twenty years ago, my elementary school choir sang a variety of holiday songs, including ones that were distinctly about Christmas or Hanukkah. But nowadays, many school districts are trying to ban Christmas songs, and parents are not happy about it. Yet many feel as if their hands are tied by our “politically correct” society.
Alliance Defense Fund is here to help. Since 1993, the legal alliance has been defending religious freedom, and it has just launched its annual Christmas Project™ to educate Americans about their rights.
The extent of your Christmas rights might surprise you. For instance, under the law your kids can:
• Say “Merry Christmas” at school
• Sing religious Christmas songs in school
• Distribute religious Christmas cards in school
• Read the biblical account of the birth of Christ in school
• Opt out of activities that conflict with their (or your) beliefs.
So what happens if a school refuses to acknowledge your child’s constitutional rights? Again, ADF has come to the rescue. In addition to composing and compiling a number of written resources for your use, ADF also offers legal help in cases where it believes its attorneys can be of assistance. This year, more than 800 attorneys are standing by across the nation, ready to battle attempts to censor Christmas. And their record is impressive:
• In August, the ACLU gave up its legal attack on Louisiana’s Bossier Parish School District after initially objecting to the school’s nativity display and its inclusion of religious songs in its Christmas program.
• In July, a federal appeals court unanimously rejected an ACLU lawsuit over holiday displays at the city hall in Cranston, Rhode Island.
• Last December, after receiving a letter from an ADF attorney, school officials in Boca Raton, Florida changed their minds about allowing students to distribute candy canes with a religious message.
And the list of successes goes on and on.
ADF has built a reputation of high-quality work, and thus finds itself growing larger and more influential by the day. Initially founded by such Christian powerhouses as Dr. Bill Bright, Larry Burkett, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, and Marlin Maddoux for the purpose of defending religious freedom, the legal alliance has expanded to also influence cases regarding the sanctity of life and family values.
In this age of relativism and political correctness, I’m thankful to have the Alliance Defense Fund watching my back. While businesses like Target may still choose to cower from the ACLU and a few overly sensitive atheists, I can now stand up for the rights I know I have and encourage my local schools and government entities to do the same. I hope you’ll join me.
Religious-liberty attorneys have contacted a Wisconsin school district that consistently forbids Christian Christmas carols from being sung in music programs but finds nothing wrong with Hanukkah songs.
According to law firm Liberty Counsel, the Glendale-River Hills School District of Glendale, Wis., has a written policy saying songs with “dogmatic religious statements” are strictly forbidden.
A statement from Liberty Counsel tells the story of Barbara Wheeler, whose 9-year-old daughter attends school in the district. In 2003, when the district’s music programs excluded religious Christmas songs, Wheeler complained about their absence. School officials said they would get back with her, but they reportedly never did. Last year, Wheeler voiced complaints to the district in mid-November, but school officials said the songs already were set.
This year, when the school’s music program contained Hanukkah and secular Christmas songs but no religious Christmas songs, Wheeler again objected.
That’s when the mother was referred to the district’s written policy:
“Music programs given at times close to religious holidays should not use the religious aspect of these holidays as the underlying motive or theme. No songs should be sung which contain dogmatic religious statements.”
According to Liberty Counsel, Frances Smith, the district administrator, says the Hanukkah songs are more cultural than spiritual and thus are OK to sing.
On behalf of Wheeler, Liberty Counsel has written a demand letter to the district, stating that the school’s policy is unconstitutional. Included was the law firm’s Friend or Foe Christmas memo, which addresses the legality of celebrating Christmas.
The letter requests that the district immediately change its policy and include religious Christmas songs. Failure to respond favorably will subject the district to a lawsuit, Liberty Counsel says.
“The intent of the school district’s policy is clear – ‘Frosty the Snowman’ is in, ‘My Dreidel’ is in, ‘Silent Night’ is out,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel president and general counsel. “How much more ridiculous can it get when 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, but the school district pretends like Christmas is merely a ghost of Christmas past.”
The organization’s Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign urges churches to run Friend or Foe ads in their local newspapers.
Controversy over Christmas and its celebration in the public square has reached a fever pitch this year with battles raging over everything from what to call evergreen trees to whether or not retailers allow their employees to wish customers a “merry Christmas.”
A Christian attorney says recent acts of censorship indicate Christmas is under attack in public schools across the United States.
One Ohio high school principal, for example, recently renamed the school’s Christmas tree and concert a “holiday tree” and a “holiday concert.” Similarly, a Missouri school superintendent informed fine arts teachers in his district that an upcoming winter assembly may not include “direct references to Christmas or the birth of Jesus,” and a Wisconsin school district has banned all Christian Christmas songs.
Such phenomena are occurring not only in primary and secondary public schools, but also at the college level. Controversy recently erupted at Auburn University when the student government association re-dubbed its Christmas tree a “holiday tree.”
Steve Crampton, chief counsel with the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, takes issue with those who argue there is no “war against Christmas” going on. “They are flat wrong,” he says, “and to miss what is happening in our public schools and in the public square — even in our so-called places of public accommodation, such as the department stores during the Christmas season — is to be completely blind to the culture war that’s raging around us.”
The hostility against Christianity that Crampton asserts has “been under the surface for years” has finally boiled over, he contends, and secularists are making no bones about their attempts to blot out all religious meaning associated with the holiday. He feels such acts of censorship indicate that public school officials have run amok with hypocrisy.
“When a public entity such as these high schools takes the extreme position that we can’t even use the name ‘Christmas,’ let alone ‘Jesus Christ,’ how else can you describe it other than censorship?” the pro-family attorney asks. He says these public education officials’ attempt to strip every vestige of Christian faith from the holiday represents “a running away, not only from our own history and tradition but from the very principles of tolerance that they are espousing on the other side of their mouth.”
Crampton says the rising incidence of Christmas censorship is an indication that the culture war continues to rage (See related commentary). He suggests that anyone who denies this fact is either blind to an ever-mounting body of evidence or has been lulled into a false sense of complacency.
Given the decision making power of Santa Claus on the matter of gifts, my children make sure they leave Mr. Claus some seriously good cookies on Christmas Eve. However, most children don’t know that there is much more to the real Saint Nick than toys and cookies. In addition to being generous, the jolly fellow could easily be considered the patron saint of purity.
Recently looking into the legend of Saint Nick, I learned that Saint Nicholas lived early in the fourth century in what is now Turkey. He was orphaned as a young boy but left with substantial financial means by his parents. He used this inheritance to benefit others, especially children. Nicholas became the Bishop of Myra in Turkey and played an important leadership role in the church. Called the Wonderworker, he was well known for his generosity to children, hence his association with the legend of Santa Claus. The story of a benevolent soul giving gifts to children is a part of many cultures with many names. Saint Nick as another name for Santa Claus persists to this day.
I also read in my study that Saint Nicholas is a patron saint of virgins. In the Catholic tradition, a patron saint is one who prays to God on behalf of a petitioner. So, if one wants to remain chaste, one may pray to Saint Nicholas who will then lift up the petitioner in spiritual prayer to God. As an aside, his patronage may explain at least one of the criteria for being in either the naughty or nice category when Saint Nick checks and rechecks his list. But I digress. There is more to this story.
Legend has it that Saint Nicholas became aware of a desperately poor parishioner having three daughters with no dowry to recommend them for marriage. The father had planned to sell them into prostitution to provide some means of support. By night, Saint Nicholas secretly brought bags of gold on three separate occasions to the man’s home. These generous visitations allowed the three daughters to have sufficient means to avoid whoredom and later strike a marriage covenant. On the third visit to deliver the gift, Nicholas was caught in the act of generosity by the man.
Many make the Santa Claus-like association of this story to Saint Nicholas the gift giver. I see an additional angle. For reasons that often involve money, women today have few benefactors, few Saint Nicks. Bob Dylan sang it truly two decades ago that today’s culture seems to promote “old men turning young daughters into whores.” A look at any magazine rack will tell you that there is a market for flesh and the demographic is predominantly male, ages 12 to 90. Research company Visiongain projects the pornography market to be a 70 billion industry in 2006. That is a lot of gold being used to take advantage of women rather than promote their virtue.
Liberation from traditional female gender roles has been little help here. Women today are not, and should not be, as helpless as those three girls aided by Saint Nicholas. However, girls gone wild with sexual freedom most often leads to exploitation by men. I doubt we would see as much skin if there were no gawking male purchasers, eager to buy and sell innocence as commerce.
Harmful to both men and women, graphic sexuality, even the somewhat scaled down prime time variety, contributes to the overall commodification of sex. Viewed through the eyes of a pornographer, sex is commerce and sexual purity is restraint of trade.
We need Saint Nicholas today. We need the gifts of chastity and modesty. We need more respecters of purity and fewer of those who would sell young people into the brothel of commercialism.
We need you today Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker. Our sons and daughters need the good gifts of those who truly value their health and purity.
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy in the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City (PA) College.
by Burt Prelutsky
I never thought I’d live to see the day that Christmas would become a dirty word. You think it hasn’t? Then why is it that people are being prevented from saying it in polite society for fear that it will offend?
Schools are being forced to replace “Christmas vacation” with “winter break” in their printed schedules. At Macy’s, the word is verboten even though they’ve made untold millions of dollars from their sympathetic portrayal in the Christmas classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.” Carols, even instrumental versions, are banned in certain places. A major postal delivery service has not only made their drivers doff their Santa caps, but ordered them not to decorate their trucks with Christmas wreaths.
How is it, one well might ask, that in a Christian nation this is happening? And in case you find that designation objectionable, would you deny that India is a Hindu country, that Pakistan is Muslim, that Poland is Catholic? That doesn’t mean those nations are theocracies. But when the overwhelming majority of a country’s population is of one religion, and roughly 90% of Americans happen to be one sort of Christian or another, only a damn fool would deny the obvious.
Although it seems a long time ago, it really wasn’t, that people who came here from other places made every attempt to fit in. Assimilation wasn’t a threat to anyone; it was what the Statue of Liberty represented. E pluribus unum, one out of many, was our motto. The world’s melting pot was our nickname. It didn’t mean that any group of people had to check their customs, culture or cuisine, at the door. It did mean that they, and especially their children, learned English, and that they learned to live and let live.
That has changed, you may have noticed. And I blame my fellow Jews. When it comes to pushing the multicultural, anti-Christian, agenda, you find Jewish judges, Jewish journalists, and the ACLU, at the forefront.
Being Jewish, I should report, Christmas was never celebrated by my family. But what was there not to like about the holiday? To begin with, it provided a welcome two week break from school. The decorated trees were nice, the lights were beautiful, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a great movie, and some of the best Christmas songs were even written by Jews.
But the dirty little secret in America is that anti-Semitism is no longer a problem in society; it’s been replaced by a rampant anti-Christianity. For example, the hatred spewed towards George W. Bush has far less to do with his policies than it does with his religion. The Jews voice no concern when a Bill Clinton or a John Kerry makes a big production out of showing up at black Baptist churches or posing with Rev. Jesse Jackson because they understand that’s just politics. They only object to politicians attending church for religious reasons.
My fellow Jews, who often have the survival of Israel heading the list of their concerns when it comes to electing a president, only gave 26% of their vote to Bush, even though he is clearly the most pro-Israel president we’ve ever had in the Oval Office.
It is the ACLU, which is overwhelmingly Jewish in terms of membership and funding, that is leading the attack against Christianity in America. It is they who have conned far too many people into believing that the phrase “separation of church and state” actually exists somewhere in the Constitution.
You may have noticed, though, that the ACLU is highly selective when it comes to religious intolerance. The same group of self-righteous shysters who, at the drop of a “Merry Christmas” will slap you with an injunction, will fight for the right of an American Indian to ingest peyote and a devout Islamic woman to be veiled on her driver’s license.
I happen to despise bullies and bigots. I hate them when they represent the majority, but no less when, like Jews in America, they represent an infinitesimal minority.
I am getting the idea that too many Jews won’t be happy until they pull off their own version of the Spanish Inquisition, forcing Christians to either deny their faith and convert to agnosticism or suffer the consequences.
I should point out that many of these people abhor Judaism every bit as much as they do Christianity. They’re the ones who behave as if atheism were a calling. They’re the nutcakes who go berserk if anyone even says, “In God we trust” or mentions that the Declaration of Independence refers to a Creator with a capital “C.” By this time, I’m only surprised that they haven’t begun a campaign to do away with Sunday as a day of rest. After all, it’s only for religious reasons – Christian reasons – that Sunday, and not Tuesday or Wednesday, is so designated.
This is a Christian nation, my friends. And all of us are fortunate it is one, and that so many Americans have seen fit to live up to the highest precepts of their religion. Speaking as a member of a minority group – and one of the smaller ones at that – I say it behooves those of us who don’t accept Jesus Christ as our savior to show some gratitude to those who do, and to start respecting the values and traditions of the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens, just as we keep insisting that they respect ours.
Burt Prelutsky has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. He is the author of Conservatives are from Mars (Liberals are from San Francisco).
Students at Auburn University that protested the school’s sponsorship of a campus “holiday tree” lighting are hailing the decision today that next year the college will sponsor a December “Christmas tree” ceremony.
As WorldNetDaily reported, earlier this week Laura Steele, a student senator-at-large and chairwoman of the campus College Republicans, led a fight before the Student Government Association to call the campus evergreen a “Christmas tree.” Steele took action after a university press release announced the lighting of a “Holiday tree.”
The junior political science major drafted the resolution with the help of student Jackie Smith and attorney Michael Fellows.
SGA Vice President B.J. Agnew had said calling the tree a Christmas tree “creates a problem of exclusion rather than acceptance.”
According to a statement released today, Auburn student government President John Tatum announced in a campus-wide e-mail this morning that “student leadership at Auburn is intent on finding a way to hold a celebration and to call a Christmas tree what it is – a Christmas tree.”
The SGA’s director of special projects, Lydia Knizley, reportedly confirmed the change for 2006, stating, “It will be different next year.”
Responded Steele to the news: “I’m elated that the Auburn Student Government Association has decided to allow the campus Christmas tree to be called by its proper name. This kind of willingness to be open to true ethnic and religious diversity is one of the things that makes Auburn University one of the greatest places on Earth.”
To celebrate the victory, Auburn University students, alumni and supporters say they will hold a Christmas tree lighting celebration at Toomer’s Corner on Magnolia Avenue in Auburn, Ala., at 7 p.m. tonight.
An increasingly vocal number of Christians are attacking what they say is a “war on Christmas” by those determined to enforce a rigorously neutral holiday season reflecting America’s constitutional separation of church and state.
Earlier this month, the official greetings card sent out by the president and first lady stirred up controversy for omitting any reference to Christmas.
It has been 13 years since the last presidential card explicitly mentioned Christmas - in deference to other holidays at this time of year, like Hanukkah - but this didn’t deter the critics.
“The Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and... they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture,” fumed William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
Some 80% of Americans describe themselves as Christian, and about 96% celebrate Christmas.
Millions of them use the phrase “happy holidays” as a convenient way of showing respect for other faiths.
Yet the row over the White House card has been just the tip of the iceberg in a year when the battle against secularism is being fought harder than ever by religious conservatives.
‘Secularists gone wild’
One leading home improvement chain removed references to “holiday trees” from all its stores after being criticised by the American Family Association.
We just wanted to encourage Christians to have the courage to say ‘merry Christmas’ instead of ‘happy holidays’, we had no idea that it would tap into a national frustration
The AFA and other groups are urging members to petition dozens of other major retailers that they accuse of stripping Christ from Christmas with phrases like “happy winter”.
The campaign against “secularists gone wild” is also being driven by people like John Gibson, a popular anchor on the Fox News Channel.
His book - The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought - collates examples of how political correctness is, he says, neutering “America’s favourite holiday season”.
Meanwhile, at least 1,500 lawyers have volunteered to sue any town that tries to keep nativity scenes out of its holiday displays.
About 8,000 public school teachers stand ready to report any principal who removes Silent Night from the choir programme.
Such moves reflect the 1985 US Supreme Court “reindeer ruling”.
It said that town-square nativity scenes and the like were constitutional if balanced with secular symbols like Santa Claus, thus avoiding the appearance of state-endorsed religion.
The American Civil Liberties Union is an active defender of the religious freedoms guaranteed in the constitution, and is often the target of conservative ire over the issue.
Stores that refuse to acknowledge Christmas are being targeted by campaigners
This week, Fran Quigley, head of the ACLU in Indiana, hit back with an editorial entitled: “How the ACLU didn’t steal Christmas.”
He said the group was being demonised by well-organised “extremists” whose real agenda was to crush religious diversity, “and make a few bucks in the process”.
“Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount did Jesus Christ ask that we celebrate his birth with narrow-mindedness and intolerance, especially for those who are already marginalised and persecuted,” he wrote.
He said the ACLU’s mission for justice saw it work hard to protect the rights of free religious expression for all people, including Christians.
It is not a stance that cuts much ice with people like Jennifer Giroux, co-founder of Operation: Just Say “Merry Christmas”.
Her group has tapped into a current craze for rubberised wristbands, producing a green and red version emblazoned with the slogan “Just say ‘merry Christmas’”.
What began as a local campaign has swiftly mushroomed.
She has already sold 15,000 bracelets at $2 each. A further 43,000 are on their way to customers.
“We just wanted to encourage Christians to have the courage to say ‘merry Christmas’ instead of ‘happy holidays’,” she says.
“We had no idea that it would tap into a national frustration.
“People are tired of being told not to celebrate Christmas, they are tired of the ACLU. This is just parents saying they want to preserve Christ in Christmas.”
A Christian family group ended its boycott on Target stores on Friday, even as other major retailers maintained policies excluding “Christmas” from their stores.
The American Family Association made its decision following a statement by the nationwide retailer that it would make ads more specific to the approaching holiday such as Christmas and Hanukkah.
“We are pleased to learn that Target has heard our concerns and decided to use Christmas in their advertising and marketing efforts. Since the company has responded positively, we see no need to continue the boycott,” said AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon in a released statement. According to AFA, over 700,000 people had signed an online petition to boycott the company.
Meanwhile Concerned Women for America presented a list of businesses honoring the “Reason for the Season,” the birth of Jesus. Among the retailers it said were excluding Christmas were Kmart, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Radio Shack and Costco. One company that it noted changed since last year was Macy’s which now includes mentions of “Merry Christmas” in its stores and ads.
Robert Knight, director of the Culture & Family Institute at Concerned Women for America said that for Christian consumers, the use of phrases such as “happy holidays” or “holiday” is “grating and insulting.” He called it an act of “cultural cowardice and even an overt attack on Christmas and ultimately the Christian faith.”
“When something is clearly about Christmas itself, it is dishonest to ban the very mention of Christmas on the grounds that it might offend a handful of people,” he said.
He added that surveys show that 96 percent of the population celebrates Christmas.
“We are very encouraged that some major retailers like Macy’s are starting to get it and hope that more will join them.”
By John Gibson
An interesting exercise in the hidden power of Christmas last week in suburban New York — in a town called Manhasset.
A Catholic priest was giving the invocation before the lighting of the town Christmas tree and he dropped the “J bomb.” That’s right, the priest had the audacity to mention — cover your ears, kiddies — Jesus Christ.
That caused an immediate ruckus. A city councilman took over the microphone and insisted the tree lighting was not a Christmas tree but a holiday tree and there was to be no religion in the observance of the lighting of the holiday tree.
Within hours the councilman ate his words with a knife and fork.
After the event with the kindly, old priest mumbling apologies for bringing up Jesus — whatever would make him think he could do that? — the councilman consulted legal experts and determined that the courts in the United States have never banned either Christmas trees, which are actually named Christmas trees, nor has the mention of the name Jesus Christ been banned.
I’m not naming the councilman here because he reconsidered his outburst, realized he made a mistake and immediately righted the wrong.
But he is exactly the kind of person I profiled in “The War on Christmas,” my book which is out now and which details what happens when officials in this country decide they have to ban Christmas trees or Santa Claus or the colors red or green or, for that matter, the word Christmas.
After they do the banning they usually run into a buzz saw of public outcry and then they check out the law and discover they went to far, that the courts have never required such precipitous action against the Christian holiday known as Christmas.
It is always a mistake, and the person making the mistake always comes to grief about it.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — ‘Tis the season to fight folly.
Troops are massed on the ground floor of a nondescript, green-glassed building that’s become ground zero for an annual campaign to defend Christmas.
The “soldiers” lined up for the fight are 832 lawyers ready to charge any municipality or public school that dares excise the mention or observance of the world’s most widely celebrated holiday.
A framed poster near the entrance asks: “Have you ever experienced discrimination because you are a Christian?” It hints at the philosophical bent of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal group based here.
The phones are busy in Scottsdale. The first week of December alone brought in 159 calls from around the country for legal advice on everything from protecting creches at city hall to what to do when a school in Wisconsin changes the first line of “Silent Night” to “Cold in the night, no one in sight.”
The ADF is not alone. The Rev. Jerry Falwell recently started a “Friend or Foe Christmas campaign,” offering the free services of 700 lawyers with the Liberty Counsel of Orlando, Fla., ready to file suit over any holiday infringements.
Earlier this month, the newly formed Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation held a press conference calling on American Jews to defend Christians’ right to say “Merry Christmas” and to celebrate openly the birth of Jesus Christ.
“Christmas is disappearing,” Don Feder, the group’s president, says. “It’s disappearing from our culture at an alarming rate, disappearing from stores, disappearing from schools and disappearing from the public square.”
The ADF says it’s been aware of the trend since its founding 12 years ago by 30 Christian organizations.
Two Minnesota cases were what drew the attention of Joseph Infranco, the ADF’s senior vice president. One involved two girls who were suspended in 1999 from a middle school in Rochester for wearing red-and-green scarves and saying “Merry Christmas” in a school video. The other case involved Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul, which in 2001 banned red poinsettias for being a religious symbol.
“We looked at each other one day and said, ‘It’s a sad, sad day in America when you have to retain an attorney to say Merry Christmas,’ “ Mr. Infranco says.
What’s helped the ADF grow from $400,000 in gross revenues in 1993 to $17 million today is its annual “Christmas project,” which enlists lawyers around the country to take up cases where Christmas is under attack.
But first these lawyers had to be trained.
“There’s a litigious component to our culture wars,” says Jeffery Ventrella, an ADF vice president. “You can’t just have a good-hearted lawyer. You have to be a good-hearted, skilled lawyer.”
In 1997, the ADF began its “national litigation academies.” In weeklong sessions, legal experts coach attorneys on the concepts of religious freedom, parental rights, the First Amendment and equal access.
The ADF pays all expenses. According to its 2004 tax return, the group spent $4.8 million training 80 law students and 120 attorneys last year.
The 832 lawyers who have attended the academies agree to donate 450 hours, which at $175 an hour clocks out at $65 million worth of pro-bono time.
In 2003, the ADF took on a dozen Christmas-related cases. Officials at the organization said they were amazed to see that, in many cases, all that was needed was a “demand letter” to school or municipal officials.
“Half the battle is showing up,” Mr. Ventrella says. “You have to saddle up and show up or you lose. We’re winning 75 percent of the cases we’re showing up at. And if you set a precedent, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
In 2004, the ADF sent more than 6,700 letters to school districts and cities, informing local officials that the U.S. Constitution does not forbid public celebrations of Christmas. Christmas carols may be sung in school; it’s constitutional to refer to the December break as a “Christmas holiday”; the right of teachers and students to say “Merry Christmas” is protected by the First Amendment.
The ADF also assures local officials that the religious origins of Christmas may be studied in school and that students may express religious viewpoints in clothing, reading materials and school assignments.
Other advice: Schools may display religious symbols if there’s an educational reason for doing so. Cities may sponsor religious displays on public property if there is a secular purpose, such as celebrating a holiday or depicting its origins.
“When you take a creche out of a public square that’s been there 80 [to] 90 years, you send the message there’s something wrong with that display,” Mr. Infranco says. “And by removing that display, you change the culture. For instance, how many public school districts still call the Christmas holiday its ‘Christmas break?’ Almost nowhere.”
Reaction to the ADF was swift, he adds.
“It was amazing the extent of hostility by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union or Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who were the tail wagging the dog,” he says. “We knew that 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, and they were being held hostage by these extremist groups.”
Americans United spokesman Rob Boston calls the ADF “a powerful group.”
“I think the ADF is interested in moving this country toward an officially Christian state by knocking down the wall of separation between church and state,” he says.
Within nearly 17,000 school districts in the United States, “a handful of incidents a year does now show a systemwide bias against Christianity,” he says. “It does show some people in the school system do not understand the law.”
This year, the ADF sent out letters to more than 10,000 school districts and hundreds of cities across the country, warning them to not curtail legal Christmas observances. Its Web site, www.saychristmas.org, posts legal victories to date.
“We hope citizens will take the holiday back,” Mr. Infranco says. “They can go to city hall and say, ‘We had a creche here five years ago. What happened to it? We want it back.’”
This Christmas season is just getting stranger as we go.
All over the place people are trying to figure out what to say to each other (“Happy holiday(s),” “Merry Christmas,” “Get out of my way, I want that iPod”) and how to talk about the time of year we are in. I tried just saying Happy December to a few people and they just rolled their eyes. I agree; it didn’t do much for me either.
Schools are hotbeds for these kinds of scuffles. One school near Seattle spent $494 to reprint a cafeteria menu that had Merry Christmas on it. The news account in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said “a new nutrition services employee mistakenly prepared them (the menus) with the greeting ‘Merry Christmas.’” Apparently, the new nutrition services employee missed an important part of the job orientation.
Another Seattle-area school district had a problem with a Christmas tree. Some shrewd people at Medina Elementary are aware that far away from the tolerant halls of the public school some children still celebrate Christmas. Thus, they put paper mittens labeled with gift ideas on the tree to serve as buying prompts for the students. Children were to take them and bring back the wrapped gifts to distribute to needy children as Christmas presents. Not on tax payer funded school time of course.
The whole plan was undone by some thoughtless and probably bigoted person who put a star on the top of the tree, thus giving the tree an eerie and palpably offensive resemblance to a religious symbol. Naturally a parent complained and the school staff resourcefully covered up the star on the tree, calling it a “giving tree.” Brilliant.
However, the affront to the sensibilities of the offended parent was not assuaged by this clever subterfuge. And now, the tree is gone. In the nonspecific spirit of the nonspecific season, the school is continuing to distribute paper mittens and accept donations at the counter in the office. The school office manager explained: “We covered the star and called it a giving tree. We hoped it would suffice, but it didn’t,” Chris Metzger said. “Now we just have a giving counter.”
I can hear the school holiday program now. Instead of the strains of “O Christmas Tree,” the children will sing: “O Giving Counter, O Giving Counter, How Shiny is Thy Surface.”
Speaking of catchy and inclusive holiday pageant tunes, a school district in Wisconsin is attracting attention through the singing of a song called “Cold in the Night.” The words are “Cold in the night, no one in sight, winter winds whirl and bite, how I wish I were happy and warm, safe with my family out of the storm.” These words are supposed to be sung by the children to the tune of “Silent Night” (for those of you who don’t know or remember, Silent Night is a Christmas carol).
As poetic as those new lyrics are, I don’t understand the point of singing them. I’ve been to Wisconsin in winter, it is really cold there. Call me crazy but I don’t understand why I would want to break out into festive song about freezing outside, alone and separated from my family.
Sounds depressing to me.
All of this holiday happiness got me thinking. What is a holiday anyway?
The dictionary reminds us that holiday is derived from two words: holy and day. A holy day. So at root, a holiday is a day set aside for religious observance. Seems like we’ve come full circle.
Here’s how I am going to think of it. When folks say, “happy holidays,” they are really wishing me a pleasant holy observance. In my tradition, during December, that would be Christmas. I appreciate that. And I will smile to myself knowing that one cannot completely avoid the reason for the season, even when tolerantly trying to do so.
Oh, and if I hear someone singing “Cold in the Night,” I will invite the shivering person in for some Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy in the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City (PA) College.
Representing a Jewish organization that defends Christians, comedian Jackie Mason will ride down New York City’s 5th Avenue today to highlight the “war on Christmas.”
Mason is a founding member of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, or JAACD, the organization sponsoring the event. According to a statement from the group, the entertainer will ride in a 15-foot Ford Excursion with banners proclaiming, “Jews for ‘It’s OK To Say Merry Christmas.’”
“His route will pass many of the retail stores that no longer wish shoppers a ‘Merry Christmas,’” JAACD stated.
The ride, scheduled for 1:30 p.m., will begin at St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Mason and others will have a press conference. Those scheduled to participate are Don Feder, JAACD president, Bill Donahue, executive director of the Catholic League, Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a member of the JAACD advisory board, and attorney and author Raoul Felder.
On Dec. 1, Jews Against Anti-Christian held a press conference at the National Press Club to publicize efforts to purge Christmas from the culture, highlighting the Wisconsin school that changed the lyrics of “Silent Night” to “Cold in the Night.” Yesterday, the school relented, saying the Christmas carol will be sung in its original form.
by Burt Prelutsky
Nothing that I have ever written has provoked as huge a response as a piece I wrote recently called “The Jewish Grinch That Stole Christmas.”
In the article, which brought me roughly ten times as much e-mail as I’m accustomed to, I suggested that my fellow Jews were at the forefront in waging war on the values and traditions of Christian Americans.
Predictably enough, the response from gentiles was uniformly positive. The feedback from Jews was somewhat less positive, roughly split between those who admired my courage and those who accused me of being a turncoat. What I found most telling was that those who damned me didn’t, as a rule, refute what I had written; they were merely angry that a Jew had written the piece. They accused me of lending aid and comfort to bigots.
Because I make it a rule to write back to anyone who writes me, and because I assume that those who took the time and trouble to write were representative of many more who didn’t, I’d like to share some of my responses.
The term that nearly every Jew used in condemning me was “a self-hating anti-Semite.” A few accused me of not really being a Jew. That didn’t mean they thought I was a Catholic or a Baptist flying under false colors; no, they meant that my sole claim to being Jewish was that my ancestors were Jewish. The fact is, they’re right.
As I have written on other occasions, I am not a religious man. I do not keep kosher. I do not help make up the morning minyan at the local synagogue. I do not even attend High Holiday services. So what? I’m Jewish because I say I’m Jewish. And because, quite frankly, with my face, who would believe me if I bothered to deny it? Furthermore, most Jews in America are not orthodox and can not read Hebrew or even speak Yiddish. For the most part, American Jews are circumcised, have a bar mitzvah, attend a reformed or conservative temple twice a year, and vote the straight Democratic ticket.
Also, I say I’m Jewish because I don’t wish to offend the memory of my parents by denying their religion and the religion of their parents.
Finally, I say I’m Jewish because Hitler would have said I was Jewish, and then sent me off to Auschwitz, if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have been born in America.
That was my whole point. I was lucky to have been born to a Jewish family in a Christian nation. It was, in the main, Christian soldiers who liberated the Nazi death camps. Even if I’m not as Jewish as some of my critics would like, I still believe it behooves us to be openly grateful to our Christian neighbors -- not because we fear future pogroms -- but because it’s the decent thing to do.
One of the very few points for which I was specifically taken to task was for referring to America as a Christian nation. To those people, I pointed out that I wasn’t claiming this nation is a theocracy, but Christians of one denomination or another compose about 90% of America’s population. That is 10% higher than the percentage of Jews in Israel, but I am willing to wager that none of my critics would deny that Israel is a Jewish state.
The sad fact is that the ACLU is made up in good part of Jews, and it is that organization and its lawyers who are leading the assault against Christmas. What makes it particularly unfortunate is that most Jews are not only opposed to the policies of the ACLU, but are embarrassed by and ashamed of the organization. However, when every ACLU lawyer who appears on TV to announce the latest attempt to remove Christian symbols and traditions from America seems to be Jewish, it’s all too easy for Christians to assume the rest of us support this vile campaign.
As one of my respondents put it, “An anti-Semite used to be someone who hated Jews, but it’s become someone whom Jews hate.” The problem with that truism is that Jews, in the great majority, don’t hate gentiles. Sometimes it just seems that way. In fact, most of us are well aware that Israel has no more devoted allies in the world than America’s most devout Christians.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case with black Americans, those who are high- profile and get most of the media attention are the radicals and the rabble-rousers. When my critics accused me of promoting anti-Semitism, I pleaded not guilty. I asked them if they thought that gentiles were so stupid that, until I wrote my piece, they didn’t recognize that there is a secular jihad underway in this country to remove Christ from Christmas.
Finally, the problem is that if Christians complain that the minority group is trying to bully the majority, they stand condemned as bigots. If I, a Jew, suggest that Christians should be free to celebrate one of their holier holidays in any fashion they like, and not have to feel guilty about it, I’m accused of being a self-hating anti-Semite. In short, nobody is allowed to be critical of Jews. Well, it so happens that while we Jews may be the Chosen People, that doesn’t make us the perfect people. And, believe me, I’m not just talking about my relatives.
Many of us, Jews and Christians alike, have been annoyed with American Muslims because they seem to spend an inordinate amount of time whining about racial profiling at the airports, instead of condemning the world-wide butchery of Islamic fascists or passing the hat to place a reward on Osama bin Laden’s head. Well, to me, the silence of American Jews when it comes to Christian-bashing has been equally deafening.
What truly astonishes me is the patience and good grace with which Christians have dealt with this attack on so many things they hold dear.
It is, I think, a tribute to their religion.
WASHINGTON – While the public expression of Christmas is being debated in heated cases across the states, millions of Christians around the world and their religious freedom are literally under attack. Just coming out of International Human Rights Week, the world is witnessing continual and worsening human rights abuses especially during the Christmas season.
“First of all, it’s ugly, secondly, it’s growing, and third, the mass media seem to generally ignore or downplay its gravity,” said the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver, yesterday as he described the anti-Christian persecution and discrimination around the world.
On Wednesday, Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom and Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) of the Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom hosted a panel discussion themed “Christmas under Siege around the World” on Capitol Hill. Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Baptists Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Lawrence A. Uzzell, president of International Religious Freedom Watch were among the prominent evangelical leaders and religious freedom experts on the panel boards.
Land, who was part of the first panel, touched upon a few of the “Countries of Particular Concern” designated by the U.S. State Department in its annual report on international religious freedom. Identifying North Korea as the “world’s most closed society,” Land spoke of the absence of freedom and the severe persecution of Christians that have continued on for years, referencing the recently released study Thank you, Father Kim Il Sung by the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which he serves as a commissioner.
With mention of U.S. envoy for human rights in North Korea Jay Lefkowitz – who returned from a landmark international summit in Seoul on North Korean human rights – Land expressed his anticipation for increased attention to human rights concerns in the country.
We “look forward to the day when human rights and religious freedom is recognized in North Korea,” he said as he likened the country to a prison camp with the government as its guards.
Land, who visited China with the Commission in August, also drew attention to the narrowing freedoms in the communist country.
China had denounced U.S. criticism of its human rights record, which was made on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10.
“From Cuba to China, Belarus to Burma, Uzbekistan to Zimbabwe, and Iran to North Korea, courageous human rights activists remain harassed and imprisoned,” said the U.S report.
Dr. Eden Naby, project director of Assyrian Family Records, stepped to the podium in the second panel discussion to address the constant attack on the Assyrians in Iraq and Iran. Assyrians are part of a small minority of Christians in Iraq, which make up 3 percent of the largely Muslim population. Naby expressed concern over religious freedom in Iraq as the country votes for a new full-term parliament and prepares to amend the constitution, which she said is heading toward Shari’a law.
In addition to the briefings on countries that have been recognized as CPC’s, Uzzell described the torture occurring in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which many believe should have also been included in this year’s CPC list.
Uzzell said it takes “outside pressure” along with pressure to the White House for religious freedom to be taken seriously.
Other countries discussed throughout the panel event include Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt.
“Egypt Christmas also remains under siege,” said Fr. Keith Roderick, Washington representative of Christian Solidarity International.
Panel speakers were Land; Chaput; Roderick; Naby; Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern; Uzzell; and Dr. Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom.
The war on Christmas continues to rage in America’s public schools, but so does the counteroffensive.
In Mine Hill, N.J., elementary school officials changed the title and words to “Silent Night” in its “X-mas Files” concert program. They are also accused of forbidding students from writing “Merry Christmas” in class in English – only the Spanish translation of Feliz Navidad was permitted, according to parents. Students were encouraged to bring in music selections, but cautioned not to choose any “religious” songs.
“Silent night, holy night” was changed to “Silent night, winter night” by the officials at the Mine Hill Canfield Avenue School, according to an attorney from the Alliance Defense Fund, which is challenging the action.
An attorney form the group sent a letter to the superintendent of the school on behalf of a parent concerned about the apparent censorship of Christmas occurring there year after year. Copies were also sent to the assistant principal, the president of the school’s board of education and six board members.
“It’s remarkable that we even have to debate whether or not it’s okay to celebrate Christmas at school,” said ADF-allied attorney Demetrios Stratis. “The Constitution does not require government officials to expunge religious observances and expression from public schools. The common perception by many school officials that such expression violates the law is simply in error.”
Stratis explained the Supreme Court has never ruled that saying “Merry Christmas” or having a merry Christmas is illegal.
“Christmas cards, cookies, presents, carols, colors, trees, lights, or wreaths are all acceptable in public schools under the law,” he said.
School officials refused to accept delivery of Stratis’ letter.
“It seems that these school officials are behaving as though they answer to no one,” said Stratis. “Apparently they have forgotten that they are in fact public servants, accountable to the people of this community. It’s a sad day in America when a public-school parent needs to retain a lawyer in order to ensure his child can participate in a Christmas concert without confronting official censorship.”
As part of ADF’s Christmas Project, ADF-allied attorneys have contacted more than 11,000 school districts nationwide so far this year to inform them of the truth regarding religious expression at Christmastime.
ADF is a legal alliance defending what is calls “America’s first liberty – religious freedom” – through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.
Meanwhile, another ADF attorney has asked for the reversal of a ban on religious symbolism and references to Christmas at a Colorado elementary school.
“It’s sad that we even have to discuss whether it’s OK to use religious language and symbolism related to Christmas in an elementary school,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson. “Many schools are simply not aware of what the law truly says about public religious expression at Christmastime. This is a particularly egregious example of political correctness outweighing common sense.”
Heritage Elementary School officials prohibited a student from bringing a Nativity scene to school and from sharing the Christmas story, banned candy canes bearing a legendary story about their religious symbolism, and outlawed cookies in the shape of traditional Christmas symbols. Teachers and students are also not allowed to refer to school gatherings as “Christmas” parties.
According to reports ADF has received from parents, Heritage Elementary School officials have warned students, parents, and teachers that all forms of religious expression will not be tolerated.
“Banning religious aspects of a federal holiday is not necessary under the Constitution, and it shows hostility towards the majority of the population who celebrate the holiday. According to a recent poll, 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, according to another religious freedom activist, teachers in a Texas public school teachers were informed that they could not mention the word “Christmas” or tell the historical nativity story because someone in the district might sue.
“All other secular customs of the ‘winter holiday’ were deemed to be OK, just not the religious symbols of Christianity,” said John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. “Teaching these lessons to children, who are the nation’s future leaders, does not bode well for America and the future of our religious freedoms.”
by Thomas Sowell
It was just a small thing but I was taken aback when I received a memo saying that the offices at work would be shut down during “winter closure.” Then it dawned on me that “winter closure” was what we used to call “Christmas vacation.”
Various colleges and universities have long since stopped calling it the Christmas vacation. A large shopping mall in San Francisco was decked out in all sorts of holiday decorations, including a huge tree, with Santa Claus sitting next to it — but nowhere was there that now-controversial phrase, “Merry Christmas.”
The idea is that any mention of Christmas might offend people who are not Christians — and that this should be avoided at all costs.
As someone who does not keep track of my friends’ religions, I have undoubtedly over the years sent out Christmas cards to people who were Jewish or non-religious. Yet none has protested or seemed to be traumatized.
Christmas is now one of many things that make us walk on eggshells during this supposedly liberated era. Are we all wimps?
Over the years, we have gotten used to the American Civil Liberties Union launching legalistic jihads against recognitions of Christmas, in between coming to the rescue of murderers and terrorists.
The ACLU invokes that famous phrase about a “wall of separation between church and state” — a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution but somehow considered to be part of Constitutional law.
The Constitution forbad Congress from creating “an establishment of religion” but this was no mysterious concept known only to deep thinking legal scholars.
The people who wrote the Constitution all knew exactly what an establishment of religion was because they had all lived under one — the established Church of England.
Being established meant that everyone had to pay taxes to support that church, whether they belonged to it or not, and that people who didn’t belong to the established church could not be admitted to various institutions or be appointed to certain official positions.
This had nothing to do with Christmas, merry or otherwise.
It is one of the sad signs of our times that we allow the ACLU to bamboozle us, or bully us with lawsuits, over something for which no one ever passed a law.
The ACLU gets away with this not only because of liberal judges who create their own laws out of thin air and call it “Constitutional” law. The ACLU and others get away with spooking us on all sorts of things, even when they don’t threaten us with lawsuits, but only with not being in step with the latest politically correct notions.
It is not just on religious issues that the media and the intelligentsia seem determined to suppress the symbols of Western civilization. American flags can be seen on homes in working class communities but seldom on elite college campuses.
Those who banish the symbols of a civilization often undermine that civilization in other ways as well. People who warn us against being “Eurocentric” are often totally Eurocentric when it comes to condemning the sins of the human race as if they were peculiarities of “our society.”
These are not just isolated foibles that we can laugh at. No society can survive in the long run without the allegiance of its people. Undermining a sense of the worthiness of a society undermines that allegiance — and, without allegiance, there is no defense.
In the international jungle, made more dangerous by terrorist networks that circle the globe, anything that it is not defended is in jeopardy — which means we are all in jeopardy, and so are our children and our children’s children.
Those who wage war against the symbols of American society and Western civilization may do so for no wider purpose than moral exhibitionism or just a desire to be in step with fashionable trends. But silliness can be a prelude to tragedy.
Hope you enjoy your winter closure, your merry you-know-what, and — before it becomes taboo — a Happy New Year.
The war waged against Christmas has been horrendous this year. Cities have refused to allow for public Nativity displays. Public schools have forbidden Christmas religious themes and decorations, revised old Christmas hymns and replaced the words with secular phrases. Retailers have substituted the Merry Christmas greeting with Happy Holidays. Christmas trees have been renamed Holiday trees.
The effort to secularize Christmas, however, hasn’t been met without stiff opposition. Various Christian organizations like the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, Focus on the Family, and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Commission have lead the way in keeping Christ in Christmas and turned back the “bah-humbug” crowd. It was important to vigorously fight these battles, despite the comments of those who say there’s really nothing to get all worked up about.
Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel recently released an intriguing article citing former President Ronald Reagan’s account of how the Communists in the Ukraine sought to first secularize Christmas and then later ban it. Nevertheless, he writes —
“Christians in the former Soviet Union exhibited bravery and courage in confronting Communism’s anti-Christmas campaign. One person recalled how the young people would go out in the streets and sing Christmas carols, knowing that if police heard them, they would be arrested. In Communist Romania, Rev. Geza Palffy, a Roman Catholic priest, delivered a sermon in 1983 protesting the fact that December 25 had been declared a work day instead of a holiday. The next day he was arrested by secret police, beaten, imprisoned and died .... Inside and outside the Iron Curtain, Ukrainians never stopped singing: ‘We beg you our Lord, we pray to you today. Grant us freedom, return glory to our Mother Ukraine.’ Mr. Reagan ended his broadcast: ‘I guess we all hope their prayer is answered.’ And indeed it was.”
Without question, the secularization of Christmas is nothing new and a battle worth fighting to stop. If the “Grinches” of Christmas succeed in stealing the significance of this special season of the year, then ultimately much, if not all, religious freedom in America will be taken with it.
Still, there is another matter concerning the struggle to keep Christ in Christmas every Christian ought to be concerned about. It’s been reported by the media that numerous churches will cancel their worship services on December 25 this year. This is unfortunate and sends the wrong message about what Christians really value. As Dr. D. James Kennedy told the Miami Herald, Christians need to “think carefully” before abandoning worship on Christmas day, “especially when many churches are rightly blaming retailers and business for ignoring Christmas.”
According to a recent article in The San Francisco Chronicle, Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and Jeremy Gunn of the ACLU say the campaign against the secularization of Christmas is a make-believe war, conjured up by fundamentalist Christians simply to raise money and expand their political power. When Christians fail to show up in their houses of worship when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, are they not affirming such perceptions?
What better opportunity to demonstrate “Jesus is the reason for the season” than by being in church on a day when the celebration of Christ’s birth happens to fall on a Sunday? For heaven’s sake, Christmas hasn’t fallen on a Sunday since 1994 and won’t happen again until 2011.
Nevertheless, some contend Christmas day is a time for family. Others say the logistics are bad for worship services on Christmas Day. But referring to Christmas as a family celebration is just another way of redefining away the religious significance of it. And concerning the various logistics of having worship services on Christmas Day (or attending them for that matter), one can appreciate remarks by Paul Proctor in “Will Your Church Be Closed for Christmas?”:
“I’m sure the Wise Men from the East and their enormous entourage could have come up with a lot better excuses than these for not following that Star through the night to worship the Christ-child; not to mention Noah, Abraham, Moses and David and all the logistical problems they had to endure in their worship and service to the Almighty; and the Apostles as they struggled through the remainder of their persecuted lives taking the Gospel to a strange and hostile world. No, it seems this year many of us are going to honor that Blessed One who was born to be nailed to a Cross for our sins by taking our ease, trading our toys, watching our TVs and munching out en masse before happy nappy time.”
Moreover, what about those who have risked and even given their lives to celebrate Christmas in places where worshipping the Christ was not allowed? Certainly Christians are failing to demonstrate appreciation for their religious freedoms, if they don’t even show up for church when Christmas Day is on the same day set aside for worship?
In this busy holiday season, time must be taken to adore Christ, the Savior of the world. The best way to adore Him is to celebrate His birthday 365 days a year — to allow Him to be born in one’s heart. W.Y. Fullerton once wrote, “If Christ is not born, Christmas is nothing; if Christ is not Christ, Christmas is nothing; if Christ is not Lord, Christmas is nothing; if Christ is not known, Christmas is nothing; if Christ is not for me, Christmas is nothing.” Nonetheless, Christmas this year falls on a special day — the Lord’s Day. And there’s no better place to be on that day than in church, genuinely singing, “O Come, Let Us Adore Him.” Sadly, it seems the theme song for many Christians, however, will be “O Come, Let Us Ignore Him.”
What will it be for you and your church?
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
Just days before Christmas, a public-interest legal group is pressing officials at three public schools and at a retirement community to allow celebration of the holiday.
The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund wrote a public housing official in Wisconsin demanding the residents of a retirement community be allowed to continue their 15-year tradition of decorating their home for Christmas after the manager reportedly required removal of any religiously themed decorations.
“It’s ridiculous that we’re even debating whether it’s okay to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or put up Christmas decorations in public facilities,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb.
Responding to criticism of the many legal threats and court cases, McCaleb declared, “The attack on Christmas is not a myth.”
“These situations and countless others demonstrate that the fear, intimidation, and disinformation generated by the ACLU and its allies have taken their toll on America,” he said.
ADF said attorneys have sent letters to officials involved in the following situations:
* In Maple Shade, N.J., the Maple Shade School District has a policy against the display of religiously themed items in its holiday decorations.
* In Lindenhurst, N.Y., the Lindenhurst Union Free School District agreed with the decision of the principal of Alleghany Avenue Elementary School to reject a nativity scene donated by a parent to a multicultural display in the school’s office area. The display already included a display or decoration for Kwanzaa, a menorah, a Star of David and a decorated tree.
* In Freehold, N.J., Adelphia School officials replaced the words “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holiday” in the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in its Dec. 21 “King Wenceslaus” concert.
* In Monona, Wisc., the manager of a retirement community that received some government grant money ordered the removal or covering of any religious Christmas decorations, such as those that depicted a nativity scene, angels or the words “Merry Christmas.”
SIGN: “CHRISTmas, Gift of God” followed with a cross
They began appearing like hundreds of mushrooms, red and white yard signs with a very simple message. During the last week, many in the New River Valley and Roanoke posted the signs to remind passersby about the true meaning of Christmas.
The signs are the vision of Mrs. Norma King of Roanoke, the widow of a Wesleyan Church pastor. Concerned about the widespread replacement of “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” she dreamed of yard signs, honoring the meaning of Christmas. Her dream was to see them posted all over the U.S. at Christmas time. She shared her dream with Lew Sheckler of Radford who thought she had a great idea.
Because of Sheckler’s experience with political campaigning, he had contacts who could produce the type of signs Mrs. King envisioned. He designed a sign, arranged to have them printed, and started getting the word out about the project. Because they started so late in the season, there were only three days to get orders. Mrs. King got 100 signs, and Sheckler contacted pastors in the NRV area, who ordered another 600. The signs were distributed on Sunday, December 11, and people began posting them in their yards that afternoon.
Calvary Baptist Church in Radford ordered 75 signs, but Phyllis Morgan, the pastor’s wife, said they could have sold twice that many if they’d known how excited their church members would be about the signs. “We wanted to do something positive about Christmas. The signs were greatly received, and our church is excited about offering the signs next year.”
“Christmas is not about shopping, exchanging gifts, Santa Claus, and a ‘Holiday,’” Sheckler commented, “Christmas is about the greatest gift of all -- ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’”
Since December 11th, pastors and other people have been calling Mrs. King and Mr. Sheckler, asking for signs. They had to tell them they were all gone. They got calls from people around Virginia and out of state, who ask to be remembered for signs next year.
Sheckler says, “Our pilot program this year was definitely a success. Next year, we will start much earlier and get many more people involved. Thousands of Christmas signs will be posted!”
When I was a kid, Christmas was just about the biggest deal in the whole wide world.
As Jean Shepherd, the screenwriter of “A Christmas Story,” would say, the entire annual calendar of kid-dom revolved around this holiday.
We’d start thinking about it in September. By Thanksgiving, there was a feeling of imminent inevitability. Hysteria began to set in by Dec. 1.
We didn’t just celebrate Christmas. Christmas Eve was nearly as big a deal. And we began a countdown in our household many days before that. Today, for instance, would be the eve of Christmas Eve. Yesterday was the eve of the eve of Christmas Eve, and so on.
With all the attacks on Christmas in recent years, I wonder how much of the fun and delight of Christmas has been robbed from our kids.
But, of course, the attacks are not really directed at Christmas, at all. Christmas is only a target of the secular jihadists of the American Civil Liberties Union and their co-conspirators at Americans United For Separation of Church and State because their ultimate goal is destroying what Christmas represents.
They remind me of the terrorists in the Middle East who say they want a state of their own, but what they really want is to destroy another state. Since they haven’t been able to achieve their goal in an all-out assault, they settle for getting there piece by piece.
The real target is not Christmas. It’s Christianity. That’s where the real battle lines are being drawn.
And we should expect this. It’s just what Jesus told us to expect:
“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you. …” – John 15:20
A talk-show host on Air America asked me the other day if I “feared” this persecution. I tried to explain that I don’t fear it, I welcome it. Because unless we pay a price for our belief in Jesus, our faith has not really been tested – we’re not really following in His footsteps.
Think about this: Jesus came to Earth as a little, helpless baby. He knew that even His very birth would result in worldly authorities attempting to hunt him down and slay Him in an effort to prevent Him from doing what He came to Earth to do – preach the gospel, go to the cross to atone for the sins of mankind and be resurrected.
Many Christians have considered the agony Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane, through the humiliation and torture leading to Calvary. But how many of us have considered the decision Jesus made before that – to come into the world as a helpless little infant?
That’s faith. That’s love. That’s Jesus.
What his detractors in 2005 don’t get is that the battle is over. The war is already won. It is finished.
You can invent new holidays to try to marginalize Christmas. You can change the words of “Silent Night.” You can tell little kids they can’t say “Merry Christmas” in school. You can do all kinds of things to try to get mankind to forget about Jesus.
But all it gets you, ultimately, is more company in hell.
A reporter asked me this week who was winning the battle over Christmas.
The battle was won a long time ago, about 2,005 years ago, when a little baby was born in Bethlehem, a God-man who would become the Savior of the world. Kings tried to kill him shortly after His birth. Priests marveled at his knowledge when He was but a boy. He turned the world upside down with His teachings. He healed the sick and the lame. He raised people from the dead.
To this day we measure time itself by His coming – not just kid-dom, but the whole world.
In another week or so, we will turn the page on the calendar and celebrate the new year – 2006. It isn’t because it will have been 2,006 years since the beginning of the world. It isn’t because it will have been 2,006 years since the beginning of history. It’s because it’s 2,006 years since the birth of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the King of Kings.
Happy birthday, Jesus. Please come back soon.
After months of official wrangling over Christmas decorations by Polk County, Florida, commissioners, 35 members of a local Baptist church decided to resolve the debate by erecting a nativity scene in front of the county administration building in the dead of night – and the state of controversy over such displays being what it is, the creche might stay.
The “vigilante” action occurred following the recent midweek prayer meeting at the Bartow First Baptist Church. Morning saw a nativity scene, a snowman and a disclaimer notice saying the county commissioners who had voted against the display were not responsible for its sudden appearance. According to Barbara Pittman, a Sunday School director at the church, the display is a “gift to Polk County.”
“Needless to say, not all see it that way.
In the contentious debates that began in October, the specter of lawsuits against the county was raised if commissioners approved a nativity display.
Commissioner Randy Wilkinson, the official behind the nativity effort, proposed adorning the historic courthouse with multicultural holiday decorations representing multiple religions. Resistance to that solution came from another commissioner who said the citizens of Polk County shouldn’t have to tolerate “symbols of people who hate,” in reference to Islamic decorations.
“When people blow up our buildings, I ain’t putting those symbols up on there,” he concluded. Consequently, the multicultural option failed.
According to County Attorney Joe Jarret, who sympathizes with the church members, the nativity scene isn’t unconstitutional but their actions constituted a trespass on public property. The county has to regulate displays on public property, he told Polk County’s News Chief, otherwise they “would soon turn into forums for various groups, many of whom [possess] agendas contrary to prevailing community mores, morals and attitudes.”
Even so, the display might stay.
“It’s an unresolved issue at this point,” Jarret says. “The Supreme Court has essentially said that once it becomes a public forum, it’s a public forum. So it could prove to be difficult to restrain or otherwise regulate content.”
In short, Jarret is unsure the county can take the display down without violating the constitutional rights of the church members who placed it there. And with no further commission business scheduled for the remainder of the year, any action would require a special board meeting.
Even commission chairman Jack Myers, an opponent of holiday decorations at the courthouse, is satisfied to leave the rogue nativity scene in place as long as it continues to bear the disclaimer that the county bears no responsibility for its placement. “I called the county attorney,” Myers says. “It meets the legal test.”
We want our grandchildren to grow up in a town where the birth of Jesus can be celebrated in public,” nativity plotter Pittman said. “Bartow, to us, is Hometown, USA. And if we, as Christians, cannot openly display Christian symbols, where in this whole world can we do so?”
Just days after the American Family Association launched a campaign to encourage Sam’s Club to return “Christmas” to its “holiday” ads, the retailer has announced it will be highlighting the Christian event in future publications.
“In our upcoming December/January 06 Source Magazine we plan to reference specific holidays such as Christmas and others, as we have in the past,” the company has announced on its website.
The company’s August/September issue included one page of Christmas items, but they were listed as “holiday” items instead, according to the AFA’s Randy Sharp, who told WorldNetDaily the campaign produced 218,000 e-mails to the company and uncounted telephone calls.
“We’re going to continue to monitor companies,” Sharp said. “We’re making our list and checking it twice, and we’re going to let folks know who’s naughty or nice.”
The issue was a big one a year ago, when a number of major retailers started to pursue what Sharp described as the “politically correct” procedures of avoiding references to anything Christian. Then arrived the Sam’s ad, the first of this season.
“The first thing we did was look at the ad. When we saw the items presented in the ad, they weren’t Hanukkah items, they were Christmas tree bulbs, Christmas wrap. It was very clearly a Christmas decorating ad,” Sharp told WND.
It said, “Coming soon. Plan ahead for the holidays.” And on the page decorated in Christmas fashion were three products: “Holiday Cards,” “Holiday Ribbon,” “and “Holiday Gift Bags.”
The AFA said it notified supporters of the campaign launch on Aug. 22 because of the extensive efforts to remove “Christmas” from the “holiday” season a year ago and the fact this was the first Christmas ad that has appeared.
“Is is very important that as many as possible send an e-mail to Sam’s Club. … We will notify major retailers of the number of e-mails sent,” the organization said.
The group said it had contacted Wal-Mart, which owns Sam’s Club, in June, asking that there be no ban on “Christmas” in advertising and promotions.
“Included in that letter was a CD with the names of 201,595 individuals who signed the petition asking for no ban. Wal-Mart, ignoring the letter, did not even bother to respond,” a website posting by AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon said.
Sharp said retailers should recognize from the response that those in the United States celebrate “Christmas,” not just “holidays.”
“Don’t lump Christmas into just a generic term,” he said. “When you try to please everyone, you please no one.”
He said he had talked with Wal-Mart a season ago about the retail giant converting its “Christmas” specials into “holiday” specials. Comments from a few dozen triggered the change, he said he was told.
“A few dozen people caused a major corporation to change their policy,” he said.
“People are watching. They’re fed up with this kind of activity. They’re going to talk with their pocket books,” he said.
The Sam’s Club statement did include an explanation:
“We have received some comments about using the word ‘holiday’ in place of Christmas in our August/September 06 Source Magazine,” the company said.
“SAM’S CLUB serves 47 million members with different faiths across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil and China. We attempt to take a very thoughtful approach to the words we choose in communicating with our members. In some cases, we use the word ‘holiday’ or phrase ‘happy holidays’ to include the season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.”
Last year, both Target and Sears were the subject of temporary AFA boycotts because of their ad policies that neglected Christmas. Both campaigns ended, the Target effort after nearly 700,000 people signed an AFA petition on the issue.
Concerned Women for America also worked on the issue last season, compiling three lists of businesses, categorized by their recognition of Christmas as the “reason for the season.”
Last year, stores were dubbed “nice” for “honoring the reason for the season” and “scrooges,” for having “removed the mention of Christmas from their business.”
“Somewhat naughty” straddled the middle, and included Wal-Mart.
LONDON — Christian and Muslim Britons joined forces yesterday to tell city officials to stop taking the Christianity out of Christmas, warning them that this simply fuels a backlash against Muslims.
They attacked local authorities who used titles such as “Winterval” for their Christmas celebrations and avoided using Christian symbols in case they offended minority groups, especially Muslims and Hindus.
The question of how best to integrate Muslims into European society, which has Christian roots but is increasingly secular, has become a burning issue, with Britain playing its part in the debate after years of promoting multiculturalism.
The Christian Muslim Forum, set up by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual head of the Church of England, complained that taking the Christian message out of Christmas played into the hands of extreme nationalists who then accuse Muslims of undermining Britain’s Christian culture.
“The desire to secularize religious festivals is in itself offensive to both our communities,” said Ataullah Siddiqui, vice chairman of the forum.
Anglican Bishop of Bolton David Gillett said that when local authorities rename Christmas so as not to offend other religions, their stance “will tend to backfire badly on the Muslim community in particular.”
“We are concerned that those approaches, which are based on anti-religious philosophies or a fear of religion, are causing alienation in a wide variety of communities and fanning the growth of extremism,” said Bishop Gillett, the forum chairman.
“Sadly, it is [Muslims] who get the blame for something they are not saying. And after all, the Koran speaks with honor about Jesus and tells of his birth to Mary, a virgin,” he added.
The threat of radical Islam, rammed home by the London bombings in July last year, has led Britain to rethink its traditionally tolerant attitude toward ethnic minorities.
The government has opened a debate on whether the policy of not imposing a single British identity on immigrants, and instead promoting multiculturalism, has led to the segregation of minority communities.
The London bombings prompted much soul-searching over what led four young Muslim Britons to become suicide bombers and kill 52 persons.
Many analysts fear the focus on Islam could backfire if Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims feel they are under attack.
Religious controversies have made front-page news in British papers this year, including Muslim protests over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about Islam and the debate over Muslim women wearing full veils.
Bishop Gillett said: “Following the many controversies through which my Muslim friends have gone this year ... I am particularly conscious of wanting to say to them in my Christmas cards and in person: May the peace and blessing of God be with you this Christmas.”
By William Rusher
Unless you are just in from Mars, you can hardly have escaped noticing the nationwide campaign to eliminate all references to Christmas from the public square. Not only is government allegedly forbidden, under the First Amendment, to countenance the erection of Christmas trees, let alone creches, on public property. Even purely private institutions dealing with the public, such as department stores, are under heavy pressure to avoid participating in activities involving Christmas symbols (Christmas trees, again). Even ordinary public chatter is being cleansed of allusions to Christmas, supposedly to avoid hurting the feelings of non-Christians. Hence “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and so on.
Who is behind this campaign, and why is it happening just now? By far the biggest institutional promoter of the purge of Christmas from the public square is the American Civil Liberties Union, which endorses the interpretation of the First Amendment as forbidding the slightest taint of religion in our public life. (There are other interpretations, which conclude that the First Amendment merely forbids the federal government to establish an official state church, as several of the original states had done; but in the 20th century the courts adopted the ACLU view, and lately have been enforcing it with increasing vigor.)
This position has the effect of making atheists the default beneficiaries of the First Amendment. Now, atheists represent only a small portion of the population (numbers are difficult to come by, but 10 percent would be a generous estimate), but they are an extremely influential group, heavily represented in various intellectual elites. Hitherto they have chosen to stay safely below the radar screen of public consciousness, but in recent years a significant number of them have begun speaking out more frankly. (The Dec. 17 New York Times Book Review contains a full-page ad by Alfred Knopf & Co. urging readers to “This year, give the gift of reason: the courageous, bestselling book that challenges religious dogma — ‘Letter to a Christian Nation’ by Sam Harris.”)
The argument between atheists and religious advocates has, of course, been going on a long time. All that has happened is that, in the United States today, the atheists have acquired at last the critical mass, or perhaps just the intestinal fortitude, to engage their adversaries openly. The dispute has promptly taken political form, and most of the atheists have found haven in the Democratic Party, which tends to treat them as just another victimized minority. The Republicans, conversely, have benefited from the support of many religious advocates, who respond favorably to sympathetic references to “family values,” etc. (There is, however, an ultra-libertarian wing of the GOP that leans toward atheism, and of course many Democrats haven’t yet given up on religion.)
The upshot is that the battle is now out in the open. The loud complaints you hear in the media about the “theocons,” the Religious Right, etc., are simply the view of the atheists and their allies (people who, though not atheists themselves, have bought the argument that the First Amendment requires them to behave that way in public). Throughout its history, the United States has tolerated a good deal of public religious activity — all of it well short, it should be stressed, of establishing an official religion. But a battle has now begun to eliminate all such activity, and the courts seem disposed to look on the attempt with favor.
Of course, in a nation as overwhelmingly religious as the United States, one impulse is simply to disregard such efforts as beneath notice. And it is certainly true that, as a people, we oppose the official establishment of any religion, and seek only comity among the many religions represented here (and for that matter with the atheists, too). But it surely cannot be terribly offensive to wish even non-Christians a “Merry Christmas,” when all that means is that the wisher believes that something happened in a Palestinian manger 2,000 ago that, properly understood, would give everyone reason to be merry.
By Megan Basham
It has become yet another heralding of “the most wonderful time of the year.” Along with the temporary inclusion of Bing Crosby and Burl Ives into light rock radio formats, holiday sales, and cheerful family photographs wishing “Season’s Greetings” from the mailbox, every December I have come to expect stories of the ACLU’s persecution of the Christian part of Christmas. So effective has the secular left’s legal onslaught been that now the mere whisper of a threat is enough to pull down the Christmas trees in Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport. And elementary school principles no longer wait for the stray Wiccan parent to complain before they scurry around banning red and green construction paper from decoration activities and “Away in a Manger” from Christmas pageant programs.
So, like clockwork, with the arrival of colder weather also arrives my wounded sense of injustice as one of the majority who worships the Jesus the city of Chicago deemed unfit to portray on film. This year, however, while the stories of the ACLU’s grinchiness remain as ridiculous as ever, I’m having a little trouble mustering up my traditional holiday outrage—and not just because the clerks at Wal-Mart have resumed wishing me “Feliz Navidad” (I live in a Southwestern city.) After a close encounter with believers who daily live Christ’s prediction, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” I can’t help but blush a bit at my previous, very vocal indignation.
For almost two-weeks in October, the organization Gospel for Asia (GFA) hosted a small collection of journalists for an informational tour of India . With 54 Bible colleges, 400 Bridge of Hope centers (elementary-level programs for children of Dalits, India’s lowest caste), a radio ministry broadcasting in 102 languages, and a network of over 16,000 native missionaries throughout the country, GFA is in a unique position to provide insight on the state of the Church in Asia.
The common challenge they say all workers in Indian ministry face is violent opposition. These are but a few reports out of the country from the last month alone:
¨ On November 14, villagers in the northeast state of Assam, India forced nine families from their homes for converting to Christianity.
¨ On November 17, students of a GFA Bible School were beaten and threatened with being burned alive by a mob on a road in Uttar Pradesh. All their Gospel literature was burned.
Simon John, a GFA regional director, acknowledges that such incidents are common throughout the Northern region.
¨ On November 21, Bashir Ahmad Tantray was killed by unidentified gunmen for attempting to evangelize in the northern district of Jammu and Kashmir.
¨ On November 30 more than 50 members of an extremist Hindu group stormed a Catholic girls’ school in Karnataka, assaulting several teachers for teaching the Bible to children. Later the same group attacked a Carmelite seminary, desecrating the statue of Our Lady in Karnataka.
¨ On December 7, a 23-year old Anglican charity worker was stoned to death, his body found underneath a pile of rocks in the cemetery of a church in the Dharamasala region of India .
Of course, I am annoyed when I hear that liberal atheists are once again protesting a courthouse crèche—but I likely would be more annoyed to be on the Christian end of any of the above incidents.
Only a handful of such stories even make the news. Meeting with GFA missionaries, pastors, and Bible college students, I heard numerous first-person accounts of sacrifices made to become followers of Christ. Disowned by families, driven from homes, jailed, beaten, and sometimes killed, America ‘s version of anti-Jesus hatred seems like petulant child’s play in comparison.
While state-side secularists stir up trouble in the public square, few have shown the temerity to enter our very churches. Not so in India. Gospel for Asia’s church service in Karnataka last Easter was interrupted by masked men who waited for the husbands and fathers in attendance to leave the building before descending on the women and children, beating some to the point of collapse. Earlier in the year, i nsurgents burned to the ground a GFA Believers Church building that was under construction. The fire also destroyed the nearby temporary shelters of GFA missionaries. During another attack on the same building site, Hindu extremists fired 40 rounds of ammunition into the construction area. Miraculously, no one was killed.
Lest we’re inclined in our first-world comfort to think this is merely the work village barbarians, its worth noting that their government provides tacit approval of anti-Christian prejudice. In some Indian states, new believers face harsh anti-conversion laws that require astronomical financial penalties and jail time. Indian law actively prosecutes proselytizing efforts. On the local front, authorities routinely invent charges against pastors and evangelists in order to take them into custody and off the preaching circuit.
However shifting the legal ground the ACLU stands on in the United States, compared to the hostilities third-world Christians must endure, their activities seem more like a nuisance than persecution. This is not to suggest that the war on Christianity in America isn’t real, but in other parts of the world, that war has a body count.
How often, as we file our briefs and lodge our protests for our First Amendment rights, do we remember what believers of other nations, with whom American Christians share a closer bond than merely that of citizenship, face all year long? As one GFA leader pointedly asked our small group, “How often do our American brothers and sisters fast and pray over our situation?”
Because it speaks especially to the hearts of India’s most destitute (and illiterate) caste, the Dalits, Christianity there has become known as a “low class” religion, a religion of the poor and cast off . . . the untouchable. How very like New Testament faith that seems. And with our elaborate high-tech structures, mass media outlets, and thriving Christian book/music/film industries, how very unlike our own.
God has blessed American believers with every good material thing. The poorest of United States ‘ Christians would be counted among those unable to go through the eye of a needle in the majority of the world. Asked how he might approach evangelizing in the States, one GFA worker shrugs ruefully, observing that, “Trying to reach Americans is like trying to reach the Brahmins” ( India’s highest and wealthiest caste). It goes unspoken that we might also share the Brahmin sense of entitlement and superiority.
Perhaps our success as a Christian nation has narrowed our vision so that we no longer recognize the blessing of being able to congregate, pray, and give to God as freely as wish. Perhaps it has made us too eager to appeal to courts, and not eager enough to appeal to hearts.
GFA Regional Director Benny Moses described the attitude Indian believers hold in regard to persecution in a way that may leave some of us in the Western world squirming: “Christian means you never react—we do not even file charges when they beat us.” He seems similarly unconcerned about his minority status as a Christian, expressing confidence in the prospect of converting the country: “He [the Holy Spirit] will do his business as we do our business.]” (Perhaps an apt message for his American brethren suffering from troubled hearts this Christmas?)
As American Christians, we do have much for which to be grateful. But we should never confuse our allegiance to the United States with our true “home” country. And in that concept, even our adversaries have something right.
“What Americans don’t understand about Muslims is that that their faith is their citizenship,” comments GFA founder and author Dr. K.P. Yohannan. How much more true should that be for Christians? We may have a patriotic obligation to protect the biblical principles on which our founders based our government, but we have an even higher calling to do what we can to sustain those with whom we share a heavenly citizenship.
Christmas is not a national holiday—it is a religious one. Those of us who profess faith in Christ would do well remember that we honor the Lord of the holiday not only by asserting our own religious rights, but supporting our overseas spiritual family as they face worshipping without any. The day may come where the ACLU has its way and our faith is officially declared an affront to the state, but that day has not yet arrived. While I would never suggest that we acquiesce to the secularists’ efforts to make mention of the Messiah’s name a crime, we must also make it a priority to support our brothers and sisters for whom that day has already come.
By Carrie Lukas
Like light displays and an onslaught of catalogs, controversy over Christmas has become a December tradition. Whether it’s Christmas trees removed from government buildings, Santa Claus expelled from public schools, or retail employees wishing customers “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” debates rage about whether to celebrate the Christian holiday Christmas or the secular (and politically correct) “Christmas season.”
Politicians and governments have two strategies for ducking this controversy — they can hide behind claims that anything vaguely religious is out-of-bounds, or take the multicultural path of incorporating every imaginable faith into holiday expressions. Private entities have tougher calculation to make. In our easily offended society, mass marketers teeter between angering secularist with explicitly religious trappings and alienating Christians by neutering Christmas of its religious significance.
In the private sphere, individuals have an outlet for their grievances. Consumers can vote with their dollars, patronizing stores and corporations that reflect their values and shunning those that don’t. When Target — the nation’s second largest retailer — decided not to allow the Salvation Army (a Christian aid group) to solicit donations in front of their stores, many customers condemned the decision and pledged not to shop there this season. In fact, according to MSNBC, five thousand clergy members encouraged churchgoers to boycott Target because of this decision, which one pastor characterized as “an attack against American tradition.”
Last year, Wal-Mart embraced a “Happy Holidays” theme, minimizing specific mentions of Christmas. This provoked an outcry from some Christian communities, and Wal-Mart reversed this decision for the 2006 Christmas season. Best Buy, however, has decided to continue defaulting to “Happy Holidays,” which a company spokesman described as “the most respectful position” available.
Who is right when it comes to the appropriateness of public Christmas displays? To an extent, it doesn’t matter. When these decisions are made in the private sphere, there is no need for a one-size-fits-all judgment. And most shoppers don’t pay attention to companies’ Christmas-related policies: They just want the best deals and the least hassles. Yet it’s healthy that individuals have the option of boycotting a specific store. It gives individuals power.
Debates become much more contentious when individuals don’t have this freedom. Consider the public-school system. Not only do school administrators struggle to handle the holidays, they face numerous other issues entangled with religious overtones, from the teaching of evolution and sex education to the content of American-history classes.
These issues become emotional and often rancorous because individuals have little ability to exercise individual choice. Most children still are assigned a public school based on their zip code. Parents who disagree with policies or practices at that school have limited options: They can move, pay private-school tuition, or teach the student at home themselves. A lucky few in communities across the country can benefit from programs that allow for greater choice within the public-school system. But, in general, most families — particularly low-income families — have few realistic alternatives to the neighborhood public school.
Private schools are an appealing option for those who can afford it. They allow parents to select a school that they believe not only will provide their children with a quality education, but that also reflects their values. Nearly half of all students attending private school are enrolled in Catholic schools, and many of those students’ families are not religious: An estimated 13.5 percent of parochial school students (more than 300,000 students) aren’t Catholic. Their parents know that their children are going to be exposed to Catholic teachings as a part of their curriculum, but they have decided that the other attributes of these schools — perhaps the character education, the consistent discipline, the challenging courses — outweigh any discomfort with the religious element.
That’s how choice works. You won’t hear many complaints from parents who have selected a school for their children; if they are unhappy, they’ll take their business (and their children) elsewhere. Peace on Earth — at least when it comes to squabbles over religion in the public square — is best achieved by giving individuals as much control as possible over how they live their lives.
— Carrie Lukas is the vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Tradition often trumps the trendy during the Christmas season. People send traditional Christmas cards through the mail far more than they send greeting cards by e-mail. Most people think it’s OK to have Christmas decorations at public buildings, even though it occasionally draws protests and lawsuits.
And many people long for the days when businesses routinely told customers “Merry Christmas” rather than the more politically correct, “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” But nearly half are not bothered by the broader greeting.
These are among the findings of an AP-AOL News poll.
“I think we should stick with the traditional things we were raised with,” said Melody Sadler, 31, who is bringing up her family in Livingston, Tenn. “I think we’re getting away from what’s important in life. We forget why we have Christmas. When people say ‘Happy Holidays,’ it turns the season more commercial.”
The poll found:
• People were four times as likely to send traditional Christmas cards, 64 percent, as opposed to send greeting cards by e-mail, 16 percent.
• They were twice as likely to call someone on the phone with holiday greetings, 64 percent, as to send an e-mail, 33 percent.
• People are divided on whether it’s a good thing or bad thing that businesses often greet their customers by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. About half, 48 percent, said it is good and almost that many, 42 percent, said it is bad.
• Seven in 10 say they will use the Internet for Christmas shopping as much or more as in past years, while 25 percent will rely on it less.
• Nine in 10 people say it’s appropriate for public buildings to have Christmas decorations.
The poll of 1,000 adults was taken Dec. 12-14 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The growing popularity of the Internet is not keeping shoppers away from the stores, the poll suggested.
While online holiday shopping continues to grow in popularity, people still flood the shopping malls during the holiday season. Some people who shop online said they enjoy going to the mall for the holiday music, mood and crowds.
Mailing traditional Christmas cards remains very popular, though not as much among young people. Those over 50 were much more likely to have sent traditional Christmas cards, than those in the 18-to-29 year age group. And young adults are more likely to say the Internet makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends.
For 81-year-old Emmett Tillett, exchanging traditional Christmas cards is a way of keeping track of family and dozens of friends made during a career in the Air Force. Tillett still hears from five men he served with during World War II.
“Every year I get five cards from these guys,” said Tillett, who sends out almost 100 Christmas cards each year. “They tell us about their grandkids, tell us about their travels. I get cards from all over the country.”
For Steve Hall, who lives in House Springs, Mo., holiday traditions are part of the glue that binds one generation to the next. “They help ensure your children will have the same values in celebrating the holidays that you have,” he said.
This Christmas season, whether a store greets you with “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” makes all the difference where you should do your shopping, says a Christian legal group.
Liberty Counsel is urging Christians to fight back to save Christmas from being erased from the public sphere by shopping at stores that honor instead of disregard Christmas.
The Fla.-based legal group released the first draft of its “Naughty & Nice” checklist Monday to advise consumers on which businesses to support.
Businesses and retailers are placed on the “Nice” list if they recognize Christmas and on the “Naughty” list if they censor or exclude the Dec. 25 holiday.
“Every consumer should make a list and check it twice, stop patronizing retailers which are naughty and shop at those which are nice,” said Mathew D. Staver, the group’s founder and chairman.
“Retailers which seek to profit from Christmas while pretending it does not exist should realize they have offended the vast majority of Americans who enjoy Christmas,” added Staver.
Home Depot was among the stores that made the “Naughty” list. Phrases such as “Holiday Gift Center” and “Holiday Decorations” adorn the store’s website without any mention of Christmas. Even Christmas trees are simply described as “Artificial Trees.”
Other business on the “Naughty” list included K-Mart, Nordstorm, Best Buy, Gap, Sprint, and Office Max, among others.
Some “Nice” businesses included Amazon, Macy’s, JC Penny, WalMart, and American Eagle Outfitters.
“Customers have a choice,” said Staver, “and they will not patronize corporate Scrooges.”
The list was released as part of Liberty Counsel’s fifth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, in which the group is pledging to be a “Friend” to those entities which do not censor Christmas and a “Foe” to those that do.
The “Naughty or Nice” list was compiled from information gathered by individual consumers and is updated whenever new information is received.
On the Web: The complete “Naughty & Nice” checklist at www.lc.org.
It used to be that retailers would call the famous holiday plant for what it was – a “Christmas tree.”
But current trends in Christmas advertising reveal that many stores are replacing references to “Christmas” with what they feel is a less offensive description of their products.
K-Mart, owned by Sears Holding Corporation, is the target of an e-mail alert issued by one Christian legal group for its renaming of “Christmas trees” to “holiday trees” or simply “trees” in its advertising.
According to the Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, when one of its supporters asked K-Mart for an explanation of the company’s disregard for Christmas, a Sears Holding Corporation representative said the company replaced the phrase in order not to draw complaints from non-Christians.
“The reason for our use of holiday tree is due to the [sic] Sears Holding is a very diverse company, we do not want to offend any of our associates, but also our valued customers,” responded Vincent V. of Sears. “We decided to call them holiday trees because even if Christians are the only religion that uses a Christmas tree, we still do not want complaints from other customers of different religions complaining about our use of Christmas.”
Liberty Counsel urged its supporters last week to contact the president and CEO of Sears to protest the use of “holiday trees” as offensive to shoppers who celebrate Christmas. The group has released names of retailers who censor Christmas in its annual “Naughty or Nice” list, which advises Christians where to shop for Christmas.
“It borders on the absurd to remove the word ‘Christmas’ from a ‘Christmas tree,’” commented Liberty Counsel founder Mathew D. Staver.
“Sears and K-Mart have offended their customer base by thinking they can profit from Christmas while pretending it does not exist. The best thing for consumers to do this Christmas season is to act as if Sears and K-Mart do not exist and instead patronize their competitors,” he added.
On K-Mart’s website, while the word “Holiday” adorns the front page, the phrase “Christmas trees” was displayed over a category that featured a selection fresh pine trees.
Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite maintains in an e-mail to The Christian Post that the company doesn’t censor “Merry Christmas” or “Christmas” and issued this statement:
“Christmas will be represented in our stores and in our advertisements this season … much as it has been in the past. Sears Holdings is proud to serve a diverse customer base, which represents a true cross-section of America. As in the past, we endeavor to make our stores festive, while respecting that our customers celebrate many different customs throughout the holidays. In recognition of that diversity, we support the use of greetings or phrases such as ‘Merry Christmas’ in our stores and on our websites. This has been a long standing practice that we have found acceptable to all our customers over the years and expect will continue in the future.”
Meanwhile, the American Family Association has called its over 3 million supporters to contact the corporate leaders of Kohl’s and Gap about censoring Christmas from their advertising.
Despite the thousands of individuals who contacted the two corporations last year, the Christian organization still has not found a satisfactory presence of the word “Christmas” on their websites and in their stores.
Last month, however, AFA’s founder Don Wildmon reported that the group was successful in convincing Lowe’s to issue an apology for referring to Christmas trees as “Family Trees” in its catalog. Around 119,000 e-mail messages were sent to Lowe’s on the matter, according to Lowe’s spokeswoman Karen Cobb, who said the company has always used “Christmas” in its advertising.
“It was not our intention to try and be politically correct or to try to take the significance of Christ out of Christmas,” she said.
The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution this week recognizing the importance of Christianity and Christmas in America.
Congress voted 372-9 on Tuesday to recognize “the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world” and acknowledges “the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.”
Representatives also agreed to acknowledge and support “the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization.”
The measure stated that over three-fourths of the American population, or 225 million people, are Christians who annually celebrate Christmas in recognition of God’s redemption, mercy, and grace.
“For us to move forward towards Christmas without honoring Christ is, I think, a great omission, especially if we’re going to honor other religions,” Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa), who sponsored the measure, told One News Now.
The Republican lawmaker told Fox News Wednesday that he was motivated to push the resolution to honor the real reason behind Christmas and because of liberal activists and “secularists in the country who are trying to eradicate Christ from Christmas.”
King said he was upset that not everyone supported the bill. Ten members recorded a neutral “present” vote, 40 did not vote, and nine Democrats voted against it.
Alcee Hastings of Florida, one of the Democrats who voted against the measure recognizing Christianity, says, “America is not a Christian nation.”
“It is a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and everyone in between. Our diversity is our strength and those who seek to use religion as a litmus test are doing a disservice to all of us,” she said, according to The New York Times.
But King said he wants to know how the “naysayers” could vote against the resolution when they voted “yes” on Islam and on the Indian religions two months ago.
The House voted Oct. 2 on a resolution that recognizes Islam as one of the great religions of the world and acknowledges Ramadan - the Islamic holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal. They later also recognized the Indian celebration of Diwali, in which members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain religions participate. Both measures had no dissenting votes.
“I think there’s an assault on Christianity in America,” King noted.
King is not alone in his sentiment. In recent weeks, many Christian pro-family and activist groups have been gearing up for campaigns that call on retailers to stop censoring “Christmas” from their holiday advertising and stores.
Influential evangelical leader Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, recently reported that the call to action was working.
“There are many of these companies that have re-evaluated,” said Dobson in a CitizenLink report. “I believe we’re having an impact.”
Although some Christian leaders were disappointed to hear that nine representatives elected not to support Christmas and the bedrock religion of America, they praised the resolution’s passage.
“It is only fitting that Congress recognizes and honors Christmas,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. “The celebration of Christmas permeates our entire country as most Americans revel in the joy of the season.”
Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said he was pleased to see the vast majority of legislators support Christmas and recognize the fundamental role of Christianity in America.
“Our Founders believed that Christianity was the best foundation for a republican form of government and freedom,” he said in a statement.
Only weeks after voting for a resolution that “recognizes the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world,” nine Democrats in the U.S. House refused to vote for a Christmas resolution that condemns the worldwide persecution of Christians.
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., was on the list of those who endorsed the statement recognizing Islam but refused to support the Christmas resolution that noted the holiday “is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and around the world.”
The Christmas resolution, like the Ramadan resolution, decried the violence that targets religion around the world.
A spokesman for DeGette told WND her vote was because the Ramadan resolution, which she endorsed, was about “rejecting religious extremism and promoting of religious tolerance.”
The spokesman, Chris Aaron, however, said DeGette is a “strong supporter of separation of church and state and her view was that Congress should not favor one religion over another.
“She felt this resolution (recognizing Christmas and condemning persecution of Christians) promoted Christianity over other religions,” he told WND.
Other Democrats who supported the acknowledgment of Islam’s Ramadan but refused a similar recognition for Christianity’s Christmas included Gary Ackerman and Yvette Clarke of N.Y., Alcee Hastings, Fla., Barbara Lee, Fortney Stark and Lynn Woolsey, Calif., Jim McDermott, Wash., and Robert Scott, Va.
Both resolutions, carrying similar wording, ultimately were approved. But the American Family Association of Pennsylvania also raised the issue of representatives supporting Ramadan, but refusing to offer the same support for Christmas.
“We are very pleased that 17 of our 19 congressmen voted to recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. Congressman John Murtha was one of 40 who did not vote and unfortunately Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz decided to simply vote ‘present’ rather than take a stand on such a controversial issue as Christmas,” said Diane Gramley, president.
She noted on Oct. 2, Schwartz “did not hesitate” to vote for a resolution to support the religion “of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 who brought down the World Trade Center, flew their airliner/missile into the Pentagon, and caused the death of the crew and passengers of Flight 93 as it crashed into a field outside Shanksville, Pa.”
“I believe there are more Christians in her district than Muslims and they deserve an explanation for her vote last night,” Gramley said.
According to Liberty Counsel, the Christmas resolution was approved with nine “no” votes. Ten others voted “present” and 40 refused to vote at all.
“Amazingly, all but two of the representatives who answered “present” or voted against the Christmas resolution voted in favor of a resolution recognizing Ramadan, even though much of the language was similar,” the group said.
The Ramadan resolution began:
Whereas Ramadan is the holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal for Muslims worldwide, and is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar year; and Whereas the observance of the Islamic holy month of Ramandan commenced at dusk on September 13, 2007, and continues for one lunar month: …”
The Christmas resolution started:
Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world... Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ...Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others:”
The Ramadan resolution then acknowledged “the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world,” expressed “friendship and support for Muslims,” noted “the onset of Ramadan,” and rejected “hatred, bigotry, and violence directed against Muslims.” It also “commends Muslims … who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred.”
The Christmas resolution continued to acknowledge “the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world,” expressed “continued support for Christians,” noted the historical importance of Christmas, the role “played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States,” and rejected “bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide.”
“Notice that the Christmas resolution uses similar language. It is astonishing that those who supported the Ramadan Resolution would vote against the Christmas Resolution,” Liberty Counsel said.
The group suggested voters check the lists for votes by their representatives. “If they voted against Christmas and in favor of Ramadan, respectfully point out their hypocrisy,” the group said.
Concerned Women for America said the true message of Christmas is under assault in the U.S. Shari Rendall, director of the group’s legislation and public policy divisions, noted Congress earlier approved not only the endorsement of Ramadan but also another resolution concern the Hindu religion.
“It astounds me that any member of Congress would oppose legislation that recognizes the important of Christmas in our country, particularly in light of the fact that earlier this year Congress passed two separate resolutions honoring the Hindu and Islamic religions…”
By Amanda Carpenter
Democrats who supported a House resolution to honor Ramadan voted against a similar resolution to honor Christmas and Christianity last night.
18 Democrats voted “nay” or “present” on a resolution to “recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.” An eagle-eyed Republican House staffer points out that those same members, with one exception, voted to “recognize the commencement of Ramadan,” a Muslim religious observance in October.
Nine Democrats voted against the Christmas resolution. They are: Rep. Gary Ackerman (N.Y.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Rep. Diane DeGette (Colo.), Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.), Rep. Robert Scott (Va.), Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.).
Another nine Democrats chose to vote “present.” They are: Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), Rep. Rush Holt (N.J.), Rep. Donald Payne (N.J.), Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.).
Each of them supported the Ramadan resolution except for Rep. Lee, who did not vote.
In an 11th hour move before Christmas, the president of Southwestern Oklahoma University announced this week the school has reversed its ban on the word “Christmas,” allowing staff members to display religious symbols in their offices as well as greet each other with holiday salutations.
The clarification followed a directive issued by David Misak, director of Human Resources, to university staff that decorations featuring the word “Christ” or Christmas” be immediately removed from Weatherford school’s lobbies and offices, according to the Liberty Counsel. Employees were also instructed to not use the word “Christmas” in e-mails.
Various staff members confirmed to Liberty Counsel that they were not allowed to use the holiday greeting in e-mail or voicemail and that the ITS department was told to remove from the university introduction page a statement that read: “Have a very Happy Holiday ... Merry Christmas ... Happy New Year.”
The controversy had drawn attention from Weatherford City Commissioner Warren Goldmann who confirmed the ban policy with the provost of the university and then contacted Liberty Counsel. The Fla.-based legal group then issued a letter to the university urging a rescission of the ban and called on supporters to contact the university.
On Thursday, university president John Hays released a statement clarifying the school’s Christmas policy.
“The university does not have a policy that bans the word ‘Christmas’ or Christmas decorations,” stated Hays.
He noted that the instruction of supervisors to staff to exercise caution with Christmas decorations led to a mistaken assumption that such references or religious expression were banned.
“The university will continue to follow the law and to respect the right of all its staff members…[I]f a nativity or other religious symbol of the holiday is displayed in a place open to the general public (like a lobby), the university will include secular symbols of the holiday in the nearby context.” Hays added.
“Employees have always been and continue to be permitted to greet one another with the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays.’ The decision is up to each employee.”
Matthew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, praised the university’s response.
“I am very pleased by the prompt actions of President John Hays to resolve the Christmas controversy. His leadership in resolving the controversy over Christmas and the general guidelines he has set forth regarding the appropriate way a state school and its employees may acknowledge and celebrate Christmas serves as an example for others to follow,” he said in a statement Friday.
“Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and it can and should be enjoyed by all.”
Less than a quarter of Canadians view Christmas primarily as a time to mark the birth of Christ, according to a new national survey.
While 94% of the 1,000 people polled said they celebrate Christmas, their motivations for doing so varied widely according to religious background, upbringing and values.
Sixty per cent of adult Canadians said Christmas is best described as “a time for family,” nearly unchanged from 1995 when 57% believed the same. Less than a quarter (23%) said the holiday is best expressed as “a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ.” And for others, Christmas is simply a “time for sharing and gift-giving” (10%) or a “nice festive season in the middle of winter” (7%).
Patricia Stone Blomme, a registered nurse from Calgary, embraced a Christian philosophy for a short time but admits the religious aspect of the season has diminished for her over the years. Nevertheless, the 43-year-old and her children always look forward to celebrating Christmas and its universal message of goodwill.
“Regardless of your religious stance, the ‘naughty and nice’ list still holds, and the rewards you reap in life are just, according to which list you are on,” said Ms. Blomme. She said she sees Christmas as a way to spend quality time with her children and teach them the value of “thinking of others, not just buying stuff.”
“I’m taking the magic my mom taught me and passing it on,” said Ms. Blomme. “Her secret was not to give a person what they wanted, but it was to know enough about a person that [she] gave them something they would love and would warm their heart.”
For Crystal Gook, Christmas hasn’t been the same since she lost her grandmother in 2001. Making the season even more difficult, the 23-year-old lost her father last year just two days before Christmas. But, “given faith and hope,” she hopes they both will be with her in spirit Christmas morning, which has special meaning to the Winnipegger.
“For me, Christmas is about spending time with my family and being able to take time off to enjoy [it],” said Ms. Gook, mother to a three-year-old girl. “Gifts are a wonderful thing to receive but they are not the true reason we have Christmas.”
Noting that Dec. 25 is first and foremost for her a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Ms. Gook’s regrets how the holiday has changed.
“It’s all about sales and selling things,” she said. “I was watching a program the other night and I was crying —I mean crying— to hear that people are wanting to take Christ out of Christmas.”
Kevin Muir, a Buddhist from Toronto, said that while “Jesus was a groovy guy who had a lot of interesting ideas,” he can’t help but feel the message of Christianity has been both exploited and distorted over time.
But because of his family’s strong religious beliefs — Mr. Muir jokes that if his relatives every truly accepted he’d converted to Buddhism, they’d “probably kidnap me in the night and take me to get baptized again” — he plans to celebrate Christmas the traditional way.
“The packages come, and I volunteer to help my mum decorate. I buy things for my loved ones and wrap them in fancy coloured paper,” said Mr. Muir, 24.
The survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Can-West News Service and Global Television, is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.