When Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes invited a U.S. Army acoustic band to perform at his annual radio Christmas show, the initial reaction from the military branch was enthusiastic but noncommittal.
The Fox Radio Christmas show is “a two-hour extravaganza filmed in Memphis – featuring special guest performers, celebrities, a full orchestra and the Bellevue Baptist Church Singing Christmas Tree, wrote Starnes, the host of “Fox News & Commentary,” which is heard on hundreds of radio stations.
Knowing his audience honors the military, he wanted this year to feature the Six-String Soldiers of the U.S. Army Field Band, a four-member group that performs American, folk, bluegrass and Irish music.
The U.S. Army Field Band is dubbed “the musical ambassadors of the Army.”
When the Army delayed responding, Starnes thought it was merely to check the calendar, but it turned out the investigation centered on the contents of his Christmas show.
He received a rejection letter.
“After reviewing your request, we have opined that the show is a religious event, and therefore we cannot provide official support based on restrictions in AR-360-1,” the letter read. “We value our relationship with you as well as FOX News and hope you understand our declination is guided by law and Army regulations.”
Starnes acknowledged his show proclaims Jesus as the reason for the season.
“In my defense, though, the reason my Christmas show is religious is because Christmas is in fact a religious holiday. I had no idea the Baby Jesus or Heralding Angels violated Army regulations,” he wrote.
Starnes’ friend Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was named ambassador to Israel on Friday, agreed, pointing out there is “nothing in the law that prohibits the military from taking part in the celebration of an international holiday that has been observed from the beginnings of this nation.”
“Does the Army have Christmas dinner for soldiers deployed?” Huckabee asked. “All the shipping or receiving of Christmas gifts? Allow Christmas trees in military facilities? If so, then the Army already acknowledges Christmas.”
See the Six-String Soldiers of the U.S. Army perform:
Starnes commented that the rejection “is what President Obama’s fundamentally transformed nation looks like.”
“The fact that soldiers cannot play Jingle Bells on a banjo inside a church is absurd. But the fact that soldiers are denied religious liberty is downright offensive,” he said.
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at First Liberty Institute, told Starnes he suspects the rules will change after Inauguration Day.
“I have a feeling that the United States Army will soon no longer be intimidated by Christmas carols and candy canes,” Sasser said.
Starnes said he still plans to honor the Armed Forces in his Fox Christmas show.
“We will salute their sacrifice and we will say a prayer on their behalf for peace on Earth goodwill toward men,” he wrote.