Conflicts at Christmastime:
Brief descriptions of conflicts during 2004
Examples of year 2004 conflicts:
The media reported a few instances of religious conflict as 2004-Christmas
Not so "Merry Christmas" for Macy's:
According to a newsletter from
a conservative Christian group, Massachusetts Family Institute,
(MFI) the "Committee to Save Merry Christmas" is
promoting a boycott of stores that are part of the Federated Department
Stores. This includes Macy’s. They are protesting the company's
to replace their employees' greeting “Merry Christmas” with
what the MFI defines as "politically correct greetings." Manuel Zamorano,
chairperson of the committee, wrote in a statement: "It’s the height of
hypocrisy for a corporation to make tens of millions of dollars selling
Christmas presents, yet coldly refuse to acknowledge Christmas...What’s the holiday all about, anyway? Politically correct phrases
like 'Seasons Greetings' and 'Happy Holidays' are no substitute for the real
thing." According to the MFI report: "The boycott was launched in May when new
[Federated Department Stores'] Chairman Terry Lundgren did not
respond to a follow-up letter sent by Zamorano. Zamorano expects his campaign to
take several years to see results." The Committee cites the recent
presidential election as showing that millions of Americans are offended by "political correctness." Federated Department Stores claims that it has no ban on such
greetings, that that its store divisions can advertise as they see fit, and
store clerks are free to wish any customer "Merry Christmas." Macy's
says its ads commonly use the phrase. 1,2,3
The use of a generic greeting like "Happy Holidays" appears to be an attempt by
Federated Department Stores to be responsive to the feelings of its
minority customers. Some consider this a move towards inclusivity. Others dismiss
such sensitivity to other's feelings as being political correct.
Celebrating a secular Christmas in New Jersey public school systems:
The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution as requiring all government departments, including public school
systems, to implement the principle of
separation between church and state. This requires them to avoid
|One religion over an other;|
|A religious lifestyle over a secular lifestyle, or|
|A secular lifestyle over a religious lifestyle.|
The principle gives public schools two basic
choices in this situation:
|To include in its winter celebrations examples from a
wide variety of religions, perhaps including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam,
Wicca, along with examples from secular sources, or|
|To delete all religious references from its
Public school boards in New Jersey took both approaches in their winter
|The board in Egg Harbor Township, NJ initially decided to remove the
religious carol Silent Night from their holiday program for elementary
schools after receiving a complaint from a parent. They reinstated the song after
the complaint was withdrawn. The final program included songs:|
|With Christian content, |
|From at least one non-Christian religion -- Judaism in recognition of
|Celebrating at least one secular festival -- Kwanzaa in recognition of
African American history and culture.|
|The conservative Christian group, Family Research
Council (FRC) described the policy of the South Orange/Maplewood School
District in New Jersey. The school district's superintendent
explained that "rather than try to respond to all the various religions and
try to balance them, it's best to stay away from that and simply have a
nonreligious tone." The school
district has issued a statement suggesting that songs such as "Winter
Wonderland" or "Frosty the Snowman" are suitable for
classroom use. They also
suggested that: "Music centered on peace is also a nice touch." But
traditional carols with a religious content -- for example those which refer
to the miraculous birth of the baby Jesus -- will not be sung. Some of the
public have reacted negatively to the policy. 5
The Alliance Defense Fund is considering whether to challenge
the school district's decision in court. Gary McCaleb, the group's senior
counsel, said: "When these school boards start censoring Christ out of the
holidays, they're on the wrong side of the Constitution. It's a kind of Orwellian doublespeak, in my mind."
Religious ban in Denver, CO parade:
The Downtown Denver Partnership of local businesses in Denver, CO sponsor an annual Parade of Lights in downtown Denver during early
December. It typically draws about 375,000 spectators. They celebrated their
30th anniversary in 2004. It is alleged to be to be a privately funded
celebration which has no affiliation with or sponsorship by, the municipal
Many privately funded groups and clubs have the constitutional right to reject
individuals and groups from participating in their events and organizations.
Some might consider their actions to be despicable; but courts have decided
that they are legal. Examples are:
|The St. Patrick's Day parade in New York has rejected participation by
gays and lesbians;|
|The Boy Scouts of America excludes both
homosexuals as members;|
|Many churches reject gays and lesbians as members, as candidates for
ordination, and marriage ceremonies.|
|In the past, many country clubs rejected African-Americans and
members. A few still do.|
Being a private group, the Denver Parade of Lights apparently also has the right to accept or
reject participants, using any rules that it seems reasonable.
A local mega-church, Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, CO, had applied to enter their float which
would have included Christian carolers and a "Merry Christmas" sign.
The parade officials rejected the float, citing its rules which have
prohibited religious or political displays for the past decade. Chapel pastor
George Morrison discussed the ruling with the Rocky Mountain News. The City
Council, parade organizers and one of the parade sponsors, KUSA-TV, received hundreds of complaints from
the public related to the ruling.
An hour before the event was scheduled to start, hundreds of Christians
independently held their own parade. As many as 1,000 carolers walked down the parade
route, singing Christmas tunes such as "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," and
"The First Noel." Some waved crosses and other Christian symbols.
|Joanna Beasley, wife of another pastor at the Chapel said: "It was very
peaceful. It went very well." |
|Mark Anderson, spokesman for the socially conservative group Rocky
Mountain Family Council said that the parade organizers "...want
to take advantage of the timing by having the parade at the same time as
Christmas, but they're saying you can't have any Christians in it. Obviously, it has to do with Christmas or people wouldn't show up."
|Jim Basey, president of the Downtown Denver Partnership said that
the organizers would re-evaluate the rules for next year's parade.|
|Mike Norton, a former U.S. Attorney offered to represent Faith Bible Chapel
in a free-speech lawsuit against the parade committee. He commented: "I don't know if Faith will sue over it, but if they did, they'd win
Complicating the debate was the acceptance of a float sponsored by
Two Spirits, a Native American group which, according to the Washington
Post, "considers homosexuality to be holy." Some felt that this was a
religiously-themed float and that the parade committee had broken its own
rules by permitting it. 5,6
Petition in Terrebonne Parish, LA:
A local organization is raising a petition to add "Merry Christmas" to the
"Season's Greetings sign on the main government building. They are also
selling yard signs to individual citizens which say: "We believe in God.
Merry Christmas." 1 One possible implication of the signs
is to suggest that the non-Christian God
in whom other theists believe, including Jews, Muslims, Sikhs,
Wiccans, etc., is a false God.
Ad encourages boycott of non-conforming stores in Raleigh, NC:
On the day after Thanksgiving in 2004, senior pastor Patrick Wooden Sr. of
the Upper Room Church of God in Christ paid $ 7,600 to run a full-page ad in the
Raleigh News and Observer. It urged Christians to boycott some local
stores by only dealing with "...merchants who include the greeting Merry
Wooden Sr., pastor of the Raleigh church, said:
"There is a revival taking place in our nation that is causing Christian and
right-minded people to say 'Wait a minute. We've gone too far.' We're not going to
allow the country to continue this downward spiral to the left."
Referring to local merchants, he said: "Our position is: If they want the
gold, frankincense and myrrh, they should acknowledge the birth of the child."
With an apparent reference to the desegregation demonstrations of the 1960s,
he said: "There's one group of people who get bullied all the time, and
that's Christians. I know what it is like to be bullied. It is apartheid
in reverse - the majority is being bullied by the minority."
|Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina
said that Conservative Christians are pushing back against
"the secularists or the humanists or the elitists. It's a cultural war. We
are in the thick of it. It's not so much an attack on us. It's an attack on
|Local citizen, Harriet Lasher, wrote a letter to the editor of the paper,
saying in part: "What happened to the land that my parents, Eastern
European immigrants, adopted as their beloved country - a country of fairness
|Judah Segal, executive director of the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Federation,
appears to have overlooked the boycott which is implicit in the church's
advertisement, He hoped it was intended to "remind Christians that there is
an essence to the holiday," not to shut out others. He continued: "We
really respect and admire people who want to have religious content in their
own holiday," |
|Phyllis Maultsby, owner of the Light Years Jewelry shop, said that
religious pressure would not change the way she decorates her store for the
season. She said: "I'm not going to be influenced, because we embrace
diversity. I certainly would never want to feel like I was being bullied."
|Ed Jones, president of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association.
agreed with the church's ad. He says that he is becoming more conscious than
ever of "a conspiracy of leftist-leaning people that want to bring down
traditional values in our country. I don't see anything to gain by offending
others, but many of us are offended ourselves. I think we - the collective we
- are allowing a small minority of people to rule our lives. I'm opposed to
that." The cards that his wife bought state: "Happy Holidays." But
Jones carefully inked "Merry Christmas" on each of them. |
|In an apparent reference to anti-semitic laws in Nazi Germany during the
1930s, the Rev. Jim Melnyk, associate rector of St.
Mark's Episcopal Church in Raleigh, wrote in a letter to the editor: "Why
not simply require stores owned by Jews to put a gold star in their ads and on
their storefronts?" 1,7|
|Mary Poole, editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's editorial page wrote an
article titled: "Christmas sentiments lie in deeds, not words. The holiday
season can bring out the best and the worst in all of us." |
She wrote, in
part: "As earnest as the pastor's endeavor might be, Christmas in America has
long been celebrated pluralistically, reflecting the nation's multicultural
populace. Retailers, for their financial well-being, have grown more sensitive
to this, many choosing the broader 'happy holidays' so as not to offend.
Pastor Wooden and others like him are free to pull their patronage and make
the post of piety's renewed political power. But they ought to consider that
the thousands of dollars spent on pressuring merchants thorough high-profile
advertising might be better used in subdued ministering, like feeding and
clothing the impoverished in their communities. This person-to-person touch
might not garner a gig on talk shows, but contains just as much power, maybe
more, in spreading Christ's message." 8
Jerry Falwell: "We are winning the war:"
Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of Moral Majority founder and national chairperson of the Faith
and Values Coalition stated in his most recent sermon, to be broadcast on DEC-19 that: "We are
winning the Christmas war." He thanked God for the "few conservatives" in the media.
He said that:
"When we began the Christmas season this year, we were all very much
aware that a war was being waged by the Christmas grinches -- the
American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], Americans United for Separation
of Church and State, and other secularists, to steal Christmas from
America. To not only take Christ out of Christmas, but to remove
Christmas totally from the American scene. I am happy to announce today
that we are winning the Christmas war. ..."
"Well, the fact is that lawyers today, over 3,000 of them in America
-- Christian lawyers, constitution, conservative lawyers -- have offered
their services at no charge, pro bono, to certain groups of
constitution firms to do war with the ACLU, with the secularists, with
Americans United, and all who hate Christ and want to drive God from the
public square. ..."
"Imagine God raising up an army of attorneys, far more than the ACLU
has, to stand up for religious freedom in America. This is a positive
thing. It's an encouraging thing. Why do we always have to be on the
defense? We have declared war on the left, and we're going to sue the
hide off of everybody, everybody, who tries to inhibit the
liberties of our children and our families from worshipping and honoring
the Lord, as we in America are constitutionally allowed to do. ..." 12
Concern about lack of Christian content at the White House:
WorldNetDaily, a conservative Christian news source, expressed concern
that Jesus is "virtually missing from the White House commemoration of
Christmas..." The White House's website is without "even a single
mention of Jesus." It does have a photograph of a nativity scene, but the
baby Jesus is "virtually invisible." Although the site lists over a
dozen secular Christmas songs, no Christian carols are mentioned. 9
Examples of previous years' conflicts:
"Holiday Tree" reverts to a "Christmas Tree" in Toronto, ON:
Back in 2002, Mayor Mel Lastman of Toronto said that the 50-foot pine in Nathan Phillips Square has
always been and always will be a Christmas tree. He said:
"Our special events staff went too far with their political correctness when
they called it a holiday tree. They were trying to be
inclusive and their hearts were in the right place, but you can't be
politically correct all the time. Let me set the record straight: Toronto has a Christmas Tree in Nathan
Phillips Square, and everyone is invited to come out and enjoy it."
He said that he intended to introduce a motion at a subsequent council meeting
to ensure the tree is properly referred to in future City literature.
"Multicultural Tree" reverts to a "Christmas Tree" in Manitoba:
Manitoba's Premier, Gary Doer, stated that the legislature could "be
inclusive without being silly" in response to Christmas. The comment came
in response to the decorated spruce tree that sat in the Legislature
Building's lobby which had, for the last 11 years, been called the "multicultural
tree." Doer told the National Post, "If it walks like a duck and talks
like a duck, it's not a flamingo." 11
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Cal Thomas, "Let the rest of us take back Christmas," 'On the Right
Side' syndicated column, 2004-DEC-15.
- Allen Breed, "Christians Aiming to Boost Religion," Associated Press,
- "Not so 'Merry Christmas': Group boycotts Macy's," Massachusetts Family Institute, 2004-DEC-03.
- "Ban on Christmas carols sparks debate," CNN News, 2004-DEC-22, at:
- "Schools Take the 'Christ' out of Christmas--and Celebrate Ramadan," Family Research Council, Culture Facts, 2004-DEC-03.
- Valerie Richardson, "Carolers
defy religious ban," Washington Post, 2004-DEC-05, at:
- Ellen Barry, "This Season, Greetings Are at Issue," Los Angeles
Times, 2004-DEC-18, at:
- Mary Poole "Christmas sentiments lie in deeds, not words," Honolulu
Star Bulletin, 2004-DEC-25, Page A15..
- "Bush White House's Christ-less Christmas. Official commemorations
emphasize Santa, Rudolph over Jesus in 2004,"
World Net Daily, at:
- "It's A Christmas Tree: Mayor Mel," 2002-NOV-22, at:
- "Manitoba: Christmas trees are back, multicultural
trees are out," National Post, Friday December 14, Page A13.
- "Falwell: 'We are winning the Christmas war'," MediaMatters for America, 2004-DEC-22, at:
Copyright © 2004 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2004-DEC-04
Latest update: 2006-NOV-19
Author: B.A. Robinson