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The Christmas Wars / Christmas Dilemma

Events during 2007

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Overview:

As in past years, the conflict over Christmas in 2007 started to heat up well in advance of the holiday.  The fundamental question is whether stores, public schools, municipal displays should:

bulletRecognize Christmas as the sole "reason for the season" -- the only acknowledged festival in late December, or
bulletRecognize the many religious and secular observances at this time of year of which Christmas is the most popular one.

That is, whether everyone should follow the traditional situation, or follow reality; exclusivism or inclusivism.

Is the "War on Christmas" a hoax motivated by greed?

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, (AU) feels that the war on Christmas is "overwrought." He asked:

"If there?s a ?War on Christmas,? why aren?t our courts bulging with lawsuits?. Why aren?t all of these people who have been ordered not to say ?Merry Christmas? knocking down the doors of our courts??

"The fact is, this ?war? was conjured up by Religious Right groups with visions of big checks from donors dancing in their heads." 1

Rob Boston of the AU wrote:

"It's undeniable that the 'War on Christmas' has become an extremely lucrative enterprise for the Religious Right. Last year, the ADF [Alliance Defense Fund] sold 'Christmas Packs' for $29 apiece. The pack consisted of a three-page legal memo -? a document one could download for free on the ADF's Web site -? and two lapel pins."

"Not to be outdone, Liberty Counsel and the American Family Association offered a 'Help Save Christmas Action Pack' ? essentially a fancy name for the sale of buttons, stickers and other items reading 'Merry Christmas: It?s Worth Saying.' (This year, the Liberty Counsel has rolled out a new button: '?I Christmas.')"

"The Religion News Service reported last year [in 2006] that Religious Right groups raised tidy sums selling such material in 2005. With so much money at stake, it?s imperative that the Religious Right keep the myth of the 'War on Christmas' alive." 1

"Wish Me A Merry Christmas Campaign:

Ashley Tarter is the campaign manager at the "Wish Me A Merry Christmas Campaign?." She has been interviewed on a number of conservative Christian programs including the 700 Club and Focus on the Family. They sell green and red buttons that say "It's OK. Wish me a Merry Christmas?" By distributing the buttons widely throughout the U.S., they hope to influence retailers to require their employees to wish customers a "Merry Christmas" instead of the more generic and inclusive "Happy Holidays." Their goal is to sell five million buttons during the 2007 Christmas season. 5

She believes that Satan and his demons are behind the shift towards including non-Christians in holiday wishes. She writes:

"Although the liberal media and even some churches are leading the charge against Christmas, they are not the main force behind the attack on Christmas. When the angel came to announce our Lord?s birth, [he said] ... that the human race was about to be redeemed from the forces of darkness by the Savior. It is these same forces of darkness that are attempting to silence the good news today. We are organizing a campaign that stands up to the powers and principalities, 'the rulers of the darkness of this age' (Eph 6:12), that lovingly announces the Light of the World through the wishing of 'Merry Christmas' again." 6

Are the Christmas wars winding down?

During late 2008, we performed a crude analysis of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) website by using their internal search function to find locations in their website containing the word "Christmas." The ADF is a conservative Christian legal defense fund.

The number of results, sorted by year were:

Year Number of hits
2002 2
2003 9
2004 39
2005 23
2006 13
2007 11

Events:

bullet2007-OCT: City of Berkley, MI: Some local religious conservatives were distressed that the city's winter display in 2006 was not sufficiently religious. They proposed the following change to the Berkley city charter:

"The city council shall ensure that each year the city displays on city hall property a Christmas holiday display from the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday through the following January 6th."

?The Christmas holiday display shall include symbols and objects that depict or relate to the national holiday of Christmas and that includes a depiction of a nativity scene, which at the minimum includes proportionally-sized figures of the infant Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The overall nativity scene display shall not be smaller in size than 4 feet by 4 feet."

A new group, called Citizens for Religious Freedom was formed to oppose this change to the charter. The voters rejected the clause by a 55% to 45% vote in the 2007-NOV elections.

bullet2007-OCT-30: Liberty Counsel: This is a fundamentalist Christian legal advocacy group founded by Jerry Falwell. They issued an Email asking for donations and announcing that they were preparing a "Naughty and Nice" list of retailers again this year. Naughty companies promoted the season by including all celebrations; the nice companies promoted only the traditional Christmas-only view.
bullet2007-NOV-12: Liberty Counsel: They issued their annual list of "Naughty and Nice" retailers. Americans United state that:
bullet?Nice? retailers include Amazon.com, Cabela?s, Dollar General, Sears and Target.
bullet"Naughty? retailers include Circuit City, Ebay.com, Food Lion, Old Navy and K-Mart. (The latter is guilty of this horrible infraction: ?They are selling ?Christmas Decorations? and ?Christmas Trees,? but they are calling Christmas ?The Holiday.??). 1

Their full Naughty & Nice list, subtitled "Friend or Foe 2007" is available in Word 3 and PDF format.

Amazon.com is considered "Naughty" persumably because:
bulletIts home page has a picture of a winter scene, and references to "holiday toy list." "Holidays at home." "most wished for in toys and games."
bulletIts home page has no reference to "Christmas."
bulletIf you order a book, the site informs you whether it will be delivered by December 25, but doesn't mention Christmas by name.

bullet2007-DEC-03: Mount Pleasant, MI: The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) complained that the City of Mount Pleasant had changed the name of its Dickens Holiday Festival from the name "Dickens Christmas Festival" that it had used in the past. 2
bullet2007-DEC-11: Washington DC: The U.S. House passed a resolution supporting Christmas and Christianity. The resolution passed by a vote of 372 to 9, with 10 representatives voting "present" and 40 other representatives not voting. The resolution states that the House recognizes

"... the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world...expresses continued support for Christians...acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith...acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization...rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians...and expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world."

Mathew D. Staver, of Liberty Counsel a fundamentalist Christian legal defense group said:

"I am pleased to see that the vast majority of the United States House of Representatives supports Christmas and recognizes the fundamental role of Christianity in America. Our Founders believed that Christianity was the best foundation for a republican form of government and freedom." 7

bullet2007-DEC-15: New York, NY: The Christian Defense Coalition has been given permission by the City of New York to display a small nativity scene for two hours on DEC-15 starting at 11 AM. It was located at Broadway and 44th street, right below MTV. It is part of "The Nativity Project" which encourages indificuals to set up nativity displays outside of public buildings, city halls, state capitols, etc. Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said:

"The Nativity Project offers an opportunity for people of faith to enter the public square with the glorious news of Christmas.  And this is, the Christ-child has provided 'Peace on earth and goodwill toward man'."
 
" 'Sadly, we are seeing an erosion and crushing of religious freedoms across America.  This is especially true during the Christmas season where there is an open hostility toward public expressions of faith.  We must constantly remind our public officials that the Constitution promises freedom 'of' religion not freedom 'from' religion'."
 
" 'It is essential that the faith community not be intimidated into surrendering their God give First Amendment freedoms which offers to all Americans the right to publicly worship God free from government interference or harassment.  That is why it is so important for this Nativity Scene to be in Times Square'."

Although not specifically stated in news accounts, the displays appear to exclude non-Christian and secular symbols. 8

bullet2007-DEC-15: Owensboro, KY: The Texas Gas Transmission company had displayed a cross overlooking Owensboro, KY, every year for the past four decades. It is 50 feet high and 30 feet wide (15 x 9 meters). Dean Jones, president of the company, said that the cross is a religious symbol and that the company doesn't want to alienate people of religions other than Christianity. So, it will not be on display this year. They have offered to give the cross to several churches, colleges and schools without success.

Although the cross is seen by Christians as their main symbol, it brings back memories of genocide to some Native Americans, Jews, and others oppressed by Christianity in the past.

Jones said:

"I want all employees and visitors to feel welcome in our building. It's that time of year when emotions for symbols and things important to us surface.''

Jeff McKeown is a state employee whose wife works for Texas Gas Transmission. He said:

"I think they're caving in to public pressure to not put anything out there that brings recognition to Christ. I think the world is going overboard with that.'' 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Rob Boston, "Is There A ?War On Christmas??" 2007-DEC, at: http://www.au.org/
  2. Letter, Alliance Defense Fund, 2007-DEC-03, at: http://www.telladf.org/  This is a PDF file.
  3. "Naughty & Nice List: Friend or Foe 2007," Liberty Counsel, 2007-DEC-05, at: http://www.lc.org
  4. "Gas company won't display yule cross," The Deseret Morning News, 2007-DEC-15, at: http://deseretnews.com/
  5. The "Wish Me A Merry Christmas Campaign" has a website at: http://www.wmamc.com/
  6. "The Attack on Christmas," at: http://www.wmamc.com/attackonchristmas/index.html
  7. "U.S. House Passes Resolution Supporting Christmas and Christianity," Breaking Christian News, 20007-DEC-13, at: http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/
  8. "New York City Approves the Public Display of a Nativity Scene in Times Square During this Christmas Season," Christian News Wire, 2007-DEC-14, at: http://christiannewswire.com/

Site navigation:

Home > Religious information > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Christianity > Beliefs, practices, etc > Holy days > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Religious hatred & conflicts > Specific conflicts > Xmas conflict > here

Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2007-DEC-05
Latest update: 2007-DEC-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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