The National Christmas Tree is illuminated on the Ellipse in Washington D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. The White House is visible in the background. (Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Christmas carolers are thrown out of a U.S. Post Office.
The U.S. military apologizes for promoting a Christian-based charity and relief program providing holiday gifts to poor children.
Across the country, Christmas lights, Christmas trees and menorahs are banned in public areas.
Atheists and “free-thinkers” sue cities into submission, forcing removal of all things “Christ” on public property during the Christian holiday.
Is the nation that puts “In God We Trust” on its currency at war with Christmas?
“I think people mistake tolerance for muzzling,” Andrew Walther, vice president of communications for Knights of Columbus, a group that has been at the forefront of the campaign to “Keep Christ in Christmas” for more than five decades, told WND. “The entire point of the First Amendment, to have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, is that we can practice our faith and we can speak publicly about things that matter to us.”
According to a new survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans agree and want to “keep Christ in Christmas.” A Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll of 1,026 adults found 64 percent of Americans favor a greeting of “Merry Christmas” – an increase of three percent over last year – while 31 percent prefer “Happy Holidays” and four percent are unsure.
“I don’t really understand where the anti-Christmas fervor comes from, and I don’t think it’s a nod in the direction of tolerance to be quiet in the face of people who are calling for the banning of something most Americans celebrate,” Walther said. “Tolerance demands that we get to celebrate our holy day and talk about it and we don’t have to take that out of the public square or be quiet about it because it’s our constitutional right to do that.”
Walther said the “Keep Christ in Christmas” campaign does not try to “force Christ into a non-Christian holiday.”
“We are just reminding people about the first six letters in the word ‘Christmas,’” he said. “It’s a Christian holy day, and we’re just reminding people about the origin.”
Meanwhile, while some argue the “war on Christmas” doesn’t exist, there are numerous examples of anti-Christmas battles this holiday season:
‘Keep Christ in Christmas’
Unnamed residents in Pitman, N.J., contacted the Freedom from Religion Foundation – a group that boasts of dozens of legal “successes” in blocking school prayer and other Christian-oriented events and traditions – and complained about a Knights of Columbus banner hanging over a street that reads, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” claiming it violates the U.S. Constitution. The foundation said it has asked the town to remove the sign.
“It’s a group endorsing religion over a public right of way,” Andrew Seidel, the group’s constitutional consultant, told CBS.
Mayor Michael Batten said, “I think it’s a sad state of affairs that our country, we kowtow to the minority and not the majority of people who like that sort of thing to stay.”
Members of St. Lawrence Council 10281 in South Amboy, N.J., and Father Jay Toborowsky (far left) stand with the council’s “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner at the St. Lawrence Church parish hall (photo: Knights of Columbus)
‘Reason for the Season’
Because of the Christian implication, a flashing sign with the words “Remember the Reason for the Season” was removed from an electronic marquee outside Lincoln Southeast High School in Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, contacted Principal Patrick Hunter-Pirtle, who instructed staff to remove the message.
“What ‘reason for the season’ leaps to your mind?” ACLU-Nebraska Executive Director Laurel Marsh asked a World-Herald reporter. “It would be very difficult to read that and not take it as a reference to Christianity. It’s a kind reference, a gentle reference, but nonetheless a reference.”
Atheists attack nativity
In Santa Monica, Calif., atheists complained about a 58-year tradition of displaying life-size paintings of the Nativity story at Palisades Park, the Los Angeles Times reported. They argued that the scene was a religious display in a public park, so they applied for space to share their anti-religion message.
Of the 21 park plots for displays, the atheists won 18 in a lottery overseen by the Santa Monica city attorney. The Nativity story typically spreads across 14 displays, but it had to be shortened to only three and crammed into two plots this year.
Patrick Elliott, a lawyer for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, told the Times a 58-year tradition is no justification for violating the limitations between church and state.
“Just because they’re long-standing doesn’t mean they’re right,” he said
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, called the Nativity scene a “territorial attempt by Christians to impose their beliefs in this season.”
Santa Monica Nativity scene by First United Methodist Church (photo: SantaMonicaNativityScenes.org)
A bleak Christmas without trees, menorahs or lights
Christmas lights, trees and menorahs that adorned the St. George Staten Island Ferry Terminal for decades have been banned this year. The New York City Department of Transportation said the removal of all-things-Christmas is for safety, but commuters told CBS News they are saddened by the decision.
“It sure does stink,” one woman said.
A man added, “For a while now, Christmas has been put on the downside and I think it’s ridiculous.”
Another commuter explained, “I would tell the city, you know what, just take one corner, display it, and wish everybody Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, happy Kwanzaa, Happy Chanukah, the whole bit.”
Several people told CBS News they believe the decision is most likely due to debate concerning Christmas and so-called separation of church and state.
‘Christmas’ card ban at U.S. House of Representatives
Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have been banned from wishing constituents a “Merry Christmas” in official mailings paid for by tax dollars, according to a Dec. 12 memo. One Hill staffer told the Washington Examiner, “I called the commission to ask for clarification and was told no ‘Merry Christmas.’”
According to the Daily Caller, Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., and Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., have written a letter asking both Republican and Democrat members to insist that the rule be overturned.
“We are not celebrating winter this December,” the letter reads in part. “We are celebrating significant moments in two religions that have fundamentally shaped our nation – and as Members of Congress who represent thousands of constituents celebrating these holidays, we ask you to reconsider these outdated and restrictive rules.”
Walsh told the paper the rule is an example of “political correctness run amok”: “It is outrageous that members can’t wish our constituents Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah.”
Atheists crash Christmas at Virginia courthouse
At the Loudoun County Virginia Court House lawn in Leesburg, Va., a skeleton in a red Santa suit hangs from a cross.
Next to a Christmas tree and crèche, a banner posted by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monsters features a nativity scene in which baby Jesus has been swapped for a plate of spaghetti with bulging eyes.
Yet another display reads, “Greetings From Your Friendly Local Atheists.”
“People are just horrified by this. It’s just created a lot of division, a lot of angst and a lot of people are upset,” Kenneth Reid, Loudoun County supervisor-elect for the Leesburg district, told ABCNews.com.
Reid is Jewish, and he said he is open to other religions. However, he believes the atheists are forcing their beliefs on the community.
“Nobody is out there preaching like these guys. They’re out there in a blatant attempt to try to stamp out religion and ruin people’s Christmas,” Reid said. “The atheist groups over the past two years have used it as an opportunity to try to ban everything. It’s no longer sufficient to be an atheist, they have to go out there and proactively try to deny and make sure other people don’t believe in God.”
According to the report, the atheists had originally objected to the Christmas tree and Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn, so the county allowed them to create their own displays. The Loudoun County board of supervisors attempted to ban all decorations except the Christmas tree, but it didn’t get a sufficient number of votes.
“The whole thing is a separation of church and state issue,” Rick Wingrove, Virginia state director for American Atheists told ABCNews.com. “We’ve been accused of trying to destroy Christmas, and that could not be further from the truth. There’s no war on Christmas. If there were a war on Christmas, I would have gotten a memo.”
Lawsuit threats kill Christmas
Two years of media attention and threatening lawsuits have resulted in a complete ban on all holiday symbols in all Boca Raton, Fla., public buildings, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
“We do still conduct business on a daily basis. The disruption was frankly just too much,” said Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel, who garnished her golf cart with Christmas decorations for the city’s holiday parade.
Boca Raton resident Brenda Scott called the decision “disappointing.”
“It’s a freedom that you should be able to display your beliefs, whether it’s public or private,” she told the paper. “It just brings joy to people.”
The city is allowing one public “free speech area,” Sanborn Square, for groups to host displays.
‘Secret Santa’ expelled from elementary school
(photo: Petr Kratochvil, PublicDomainPictures.net)
An elementary school principal in Newburyport, Mass., has banned schoolchildren from participating in a traditional Secret Santa gift exchange out of deference to students who don’t celebrate the Christian holiday, the Newburyport Daily News reported.
“I think it is punishing the majority to possibly help a very few,” said David Logan, a parent of a child at Molin Upper Elementary School. “I was raised by a Jewish mom, and I see no reason to ban the practice. Why hurt the majority for a few? Don’t you think they’ll understand?”
In a Dec. 15 letter to parents, teacher Kathleen Petrie attempted to explain Principal Lorene Marx’s Secret Santa ban:
“I am soooo sorry to report that we are not allowed to have a Secret Santa in the classroom this year. Mrs. Marx, the principal, asked that we not participate due to the students in the school who do not celebrate Christmas. I completely understand and appreciate the work she is doing to keep all 5th-grade classrooms consistent and on the same page. Sorry for any trouble or disappointment this may have caused.”
Marx told the paper the ban is only for her school, but the entire district should consider adopting the rule. According to the report, there have been no parent complaints about the gift exchange.
Only snowmen, snowflakes ‘safe’ for school
Teachers at a Stockton, Calif., elementary school have been told they are prohibited from displaying Santas, Christmas trees or poinsettias due to religious concerns, according to Sacramento’s KXTV News 10.
Claudia Landeen School, a K-8 school in the Lincoln Unified School District, is prohibiting those items as a proactive step. According to the report, the school has received no complaints about the Christmas decorations.
Superintendent Tom Uslan told the TV station there are a “myriad of religious affiliations (at the school). We don’t want a pervasive theme of a class to represent one religious affiliation.”
A memo to teachers said they are still allowed to decorate with snowflakes and snowmen, which, according to the message, is “safe.”
‘Silent Night’ under attack
Unnamed lawyers sent an anonymous request to GW Trenholm Primary School in Tuscumbia, Ala., asking that the school remove “Silent Night” from its annual Christmas program because of its reference to Jesus. According to WAFF-TV, parents said they heard about a possible ban on the Christmas carol from their children’s teachers.
However, school attorney Jimmy Hughston assured outraged parents and members of the community that students will perform the Christmas program as rehearsed.
No more ‘Merry Christmas’
In upstate New York, the Batavia City School District has declared that “Christmas and Hanukkah will no longer be celebrated in classrooms.”
According to WROC-TV, the district refused to allow holiday to be displayed in classrooms and teachers are discouraged from writing or saying “Merry Christmas.”
Military apology for Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child
In November this year, the Air Force Academy apologized for an email promoting Operation Christmas Child – a Christian-based charity and relief program providing more than 8 million holiday gifts to impoverished children in 100 countries around the world – after it was accused of religious intolerance.
According to Fox News radio, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said military commanders went too far when they supported the gift program, sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a group run by Franklin Graham.
“This is a proselytizing entity of Franklin Graham,” said Military Religious Freedom Foundation President Mikey Weinstein.
According to the report, Weinstein filed a grievance on behalf of 132 Academy personnel, including two sets of Muslim-American parents.
Air Force chooses Nativity, menorah over atheist
A Nativity scene and menorah displayed along with numerous secular Santas and holiday signs at Travis Air Force Base were considered unacceptable by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group that demanded the Christian symbols be moved. The Nativity and menorah displays had been part of a 17-year Travis tradition and had never been the subject of complaint until this year.
“We’ve made the clear demand, which is: take them down, put them over at the chapel which is the place that is legally allowable under the constitution,” Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein told the Associated Press, claiming the displays amounted to military endorsement of religion.
Weinstein added: “Everyone in the military takes an oath to preserve, protect, support and defend not somebody’s particular perspective of the New Testament, or the Torah, or the Koran, or the great spaghetti monster, but the U.S. Constitution and that’s why we’re asking the religious aspect of the display be moved to the chapel.”
Only days later, the office of the Air Force judge advocate general decided that the displays, “as part of a broader, secular holiday seasonal display,” do not violate the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause and will stay.
5,000 rally to support Christmas scene
On Dec. 17, as many as 5,000 people rallied to support a Nativity scene on a courthouse lawn in Athens, Texas, that had been the target of complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The atheist group had said the scene should be removed, according to London’s Daily Mail.
Nathan Lorick, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Malakoff and one of the organizers of the massive rally, told Fox News: “We believe that God led us to do this and so we knew he was up to something great.”
According to the report, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent out a “Don’t mess with Texas” message and said he would defend the county if the atheists sued. The following is a video of the crowd singing at the rally:
City backs down on lawsuit threat
A 50-year tradition of displaying a Nativity scene in Elwood City, Pa., will end – because the city wanted to avoid a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The city council agreed to leave the holiday display up this year, but they voted to move it to private property in 2012.
According to the Beaver County Times, Councilman Glenn Jones also said he didn’t approve of the decision but didn’t want to battle a lawsuit that could be costly for the city even if it won.
Stephen Hirtle, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Pittsburgh, told the Times he is satisfied with the city’s decision.
“I’m pleased with the outcome,” he said, “and I’m glad that the two sides could come together.”
U.S. Post Office tosses Christmas carolers
According to FoxNews.com, “A group of Christmas carolers was thrown out of a U.S. Post Office in Silver Spring, MD, after the post office manager told them they were not allowed to sing Christmas carols on government property.”
“They were only a few notes into their carol when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a scowling postal manager rushing to confront the carolers,” JP Duffy, who was standing in a line with his wife and two-year-old daughter, told Fox News.
According to the report, the customers standing in line began to boo the postal worker as he ordered the carolers to leave.
In other parts of the world …
- In Australia, three-year-old children at the Inner Sydney Montessori School in Sydney have been banned from singing about Jesus at their end-of-year sing-along. All references to the birth of Jesus Christ have been removed from their song sheets, according to London’s Daily Telegraph.
- A London resident claims an inspector ordered him to remove Christmas decorations outside his family’s home, then demanded his birth certificate and photographed him. According to the London Evening Standard, the inspector said the lighted Christmas wreath on the front door was a fire hazard.
- In a case of ultimate “war on Christmas” irony, the mayor of the Israeli town of Nazareth Illit has banned Christmas trees. At Christmas time last year, Mayor Shimon Gapso dubbed public display of the Christian symbol provocative and banned the trees from public areas. “Nazareth Illit is a Jewish city and it will not happen – not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” he told the AFP.
- In Canada, a Kingston, Ontario, a school-bus driver and his little passengers were banned from decorating their school bus for Christmas and dressing in Christmas-oriented costumes.
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