The conflict over Christmas in 2006 started to heat up well in advance of the holiday,
as in past years. The root of the debate is a conflict over whether to
acknowledge and value religious diversity in America:
NOV-09: USA: Wal-Mart restores "Merry Christmas" greeting:
Having suffered a loss of sales as a result of the 2005 boycott by the
American Family Association, the Catholic League and other
conservative Christian groups, Wal-Mart has decided to revert to the
greeting "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays."
Wal-Mart spokesperson, Linda Blakley, told USA Today: "We, quite
frankly, have learned a lesson from last year. We're not afraid to use the term
'Merry Christmas.' We'll use it early, and we'll use it often."
They plan to show TV ads starting in mid-November promote "Christmas." It's
changing the name of its seasonal decorations department to "The Christmas Shop"
from "The Holiday Shop." 2
NOV-15: USA: Alliance Defense Fund mobilizes 950 attorneys:
On 2006-NOV-15, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) announced that it has
over 950 attorneys available across the U.S. to combat the censorship of
Christmas celebrations in schools and public property. However, they plan to
fight only "improper attempts" to restrict celebrations. This implies
that there are certain restrictions that are legitimate and required by the U.S.
Constitution. ADF President Alan Sears said:
"Frankly, it's ridiculous that Americans have to think twice about
whether it's okay to say Merry Christmas. Thanks to the ACLU and its allies,
Christmas isn't what it used to be. It's time to repair the damage that
such organizations have done to America's favorite holiday. An overwhelming
majority of Americans oppose censoring Christmas. ... It's a sad day in
America when you have to retain an attorney to wish someone a Merry
Christmas. The fear, intimidation, and disinformation spread by the ACLU
and its allies over the years will not be changed overnight. That's why ADF
wants to dispel the myths about religious expression at Christmastime that
have prompted wrongful acts of government censorship of religious speech."
In their news release, they appear to recognize that a simple,
government-sponsored religious displays -- Christian or otherwise -- are not
permitted, and that the content of displays must meet certain standards in order
to be constitutional. They write:
"Often, the 'Three Reindeer Rule' is used by courts, whereby a judge
reasons that having a sufficient number of secular objects in close enough
proximity to the Christmas item (such as a crèche) renders the overall
display as a constitutional community observance of the holiday." 1
Mid November: WA: Rabbi asks for menorah at Seattle-Tacoma airport:
The origins of this story began in October. Mitchell Stein, a Jew, is a
construction consultant for the Port of Seattle. He offered to supply the Port
Authority with a large, 8 feet tall, menorah to be installed in the airport's
international arrival hall. It would be located beside the many Christmas trees
that the airport sets up each December. He was never able to get a clear answer
from the airport staff about his request.
Orthodox Rabbi Bogomilsky attempted to resolve the issue. He had his attorney
sent a letter to the Port Authority. The letter allegedly mentioned the
possibility of a lawsuit if the menorah was not added to the seasonal display. He said:
"Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the
trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the
decided that if they added a Jewish menorah, they would have to also be open to
adding symbols of other religions and cultures in the area. But if they did not
add the menorah, then they might be sued. They decided to resolve the problem by
removing all of the Christmas trees and having no decoration for the holiday
Harvey Grad, Bogomilsky's lawyer, said:
"They've darkened the hall instead of turning the lights up. There is a
concern here that the Jewish community will be portrayed as the Grinch [who
Airport maintenance workers removed the trees on early Saturday morning,
DEC-09. Airport spokesperson Terri-Ann Betancourt said:
"We decided to take the trees down because we didn't want to be
exclusive. We're trying to be thoughtful and respectful, and will review
policies after the first of the year." 6
NOV-25: CO: Homemaker threatened with fine for Christmas wreath:
of Pagosa Springs, CO decided to decorate her
house with a Christmas wreath. Showing innovation, she
created a novel wreath in the form of a peace symbol, with
a red ribbon at the bottom. Her homeowners association went ballistic. They
called it "politically divisive" and a "symbol of Satanism."
3 The latter was a common view
back in the late 20th century among conservative Christians. In fact, the peace
symbol was derived from an overlapping of the two international semaphore
symbols for the letter "N" and "D." The symbol was designed by Gerald Holtom for
the UK Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament back in the 60s. The "N" and "D" stand for "nuclear
Jensen was threatened with a $25.00 per day fine
until she removed the wreath. She refused, saying:
"It seems whenever someone tries to say 'Peace
on Earth' it is met with so much resistance. The incredible amount of
support we have received over the last couple of days really is proof to us
of how many people believe in peace and in our right to say it."
Hundreds of strangers offered to pay her fine.
She told the Associated Press her display was not political, saying:
"Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing."
Eric Rauch, who is opposed to the display, commented on the
American Vision web site:
"It wasn’t that the association banned wreaths
or outdoor decorations of any kind; they viewed Jensen’s wreath as a
political—or even worse—a religious, statement. The peace wreath was deemed
'divisive,' and since the association 'doesn’t allow flags or signs that are
considered divisive,' the obvious decision was to demand removal of the
"To her credit, Jensen was not put off by the association. A past president
herself, Jensen knew her rights and stood her ground. She insisted the
wreath was neither a political, anti-war statement nor a shrine to the 'evil
one.' She said the wreath was simply a way to proclaim the hope that she
shares with every Miss America contestant: world peace. After she received
overwhelming support from the Pagosa Springs community, the homeowners
association backed off and claimed that the whole affair was a
misunderstanding. I guess it was … and it still is. By caving in and
allowing the wreath to stay, the association is revealing just how out of
touch they are with the rest of the country."
NOV-28: Christian triumphalism doing well in Colorado:
In 2005-DEC, the council had refused the request of
the Chabad Center
of Northern Colorado to display a 9-foot-tall menorah next to
a Christmas tree in its town square.
Rabbi Gorelik of the Center was permitted to
light the nine-branched candelabrum in Old Town Fort Collins, and then move it
quickly to a local pub: CooperSmith's Pub & Brewing. It
appears that the same arrangement will be implemented in 2006.
During 2006-JUL, Fort Collins' city council decided to limit seasonal
displays to Christmas trees, wreaths and white lights. On NOV-28, a group of
church leaders from the local Inter Faith Dialogue Group sent a letter to
council noting that the city seems to be showing a bias in favor of only one
religion -- Christianity. They suggested that the council either allow symbols
of all faiths, or ban religious objects entirely. The council continued its
Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson hopes the council will reconsider its
decision and allow multi-faith displays. He said: "Great cities are
inclusionsary and I hope Fort Collins becomes inclusionary."
Some members of council believe that Christmas Trees are not a Christian
symbol, and that by allowing only Christmas trees, the city is thus banning all
religious symbols. 14,15
NOV-28: IL: Ad for a film "The Nativity Story"
prohibited at Christmas festival:
New Line Cinema prepared a short TV advertisement for its new movie "The
Nativity Story." They arranged to have it continuously displayed at a
downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindmarket in Chicago, IL. The
city banned the ad saying that it might offend non-Christians.
Paul Braoudakis, spokesperson for
the Barrington, IL-based Willow Creek Association, a group of more than
11,000 churches of various denominations, said:
"The last time I checked, the
first six letters of Christmas still spell out Christ. It's tantamount to
celebrating Lincoln's birthday without talking about Abraham Lincoln."
Cindy Gatziolis, a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office of Special Events
said that the city does not want to appear to endorse one religion over
"Our guidance was that this very
prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many
people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and
unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising
standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza."]
Fox News, quoting Christina
Kounelias, an executive vice president at New Line Cinema, reported that: ]
"Kounelias said she finds it hard to believe that non-Christians
who attended something called Christkindlmarket would be surprised or
offended by the presence of posters, brochures and other advertisements of
the movie. 'One would assume that if (people) were to go to
Christkindlmarket, they'd know it is about Christmas,' she said."
DEC-08: DC: Annual White House holiday card doesn't mention Christmas:
second consecutive year, the White House's "holiday card" does not mention
Undated: Vision America petition to President Bush:
Vision America is a fundamentalist Christian group attempting to
restore "the original American vision" by "mobilizing pastors and
churches to win the war on Christianity."
8 They note that the ACLU and "activist' judge who enforce the
First Amendment's separation of church and state have
"assaulted" "public displays celebrating Christmas." We have never
seen any evidence of such an assault, although the ACLU and other groups have
often initiated lawsuits to have religions other than Christian represented at
municipal and school displays at this time of year. Vision America has
issued a petition to President Bush asking him to issue an executive order "prohibiting
the federal enforcement of any court decisions that seek to remove Christ from
Christmas." The effect would be to trigger a constitutional crisis between
the executive branch. 9
Their web site sells printed cards to people who
object to "Happy Holidays." They say:
"Like 90% of the American people, we celebrate
Christmas in our home. Since businesses derive 20% of their annual income
from Christmas Shopping, -- the greeting 'Merry Christmas' would be
appreciated. Thank you for considering this request." 10
They also sell bumper stickers that say: "It's OK
to say 'Merry Christmas'." 11
2006-DEC-12: Christmas trees reinstalled at
Officials at the Seattle-Tacoma airport learned on DEC-11 that Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky's
organization would not file a lawsuit over the Christmas tree display. His
lawyer, Harvey Grad, said: "We are not going to be the instrument by which the
port holds Christmas hostage. He mentioned that the rabbi had received "all
kinds of calls and e-mails," many of which were "odious."
Local Jewish organizations also began receiving hate Emaikls. Bogomilsky
wrote on behalf of Chabad of Greater Seattle:
"For many people, the Christmas tree is an important symbol of the
season. Our goal was to include a menorah in the airport as well so that we
could bring extra light with Hanukkah's universal message of hope. Our
discussion of possible legal action was never about removing Christmas trees
- it was about protecting the right to add menorahs."
Patricia Davis, president of the Port of Seattle commission, issued a
statement saying that Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky:
"... never asked us to remove the trees; it was the port's decision based
on what we knew at the time. ... A key element in moving forward will
be to work with the rabbi and other members of the community to develop a
plan for next year's holiday decorations at the airport."
Fourteen plastic Christmas trees, and zero menorahs were installed at the
airport during the early morning of DEC-12. 13
2006-DEC-19: The lucrative business of keeping Christ in Christmas:
Daniel Burke of the Religious News Service wrote an article about the
financial benefits to conservative Christian groups who are fighting the
Christmas War. He wopte:
"The Mississippi-based American Family Association
says it has sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper stickers
bearing the slogan 'Merry Christmas: It's Worth Saying'."
"The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal aid
group that boasts a network of some 900 lawyers standing ready to 'defend
Christmas,' says it has moved about 20,000 'Christmas packs.' The packs,
available for a suggested $29 donation, include a three-page legal memo and
two lapel pins."
"And Liberty Counsel, a conservative law firm affiliated
with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, says it has distributed for free 16,000 legal
memos on celebrating Christmas."
"Leaders say demand for the goods—which are pitched online
and through e-mail to supporters—is driven by what they view as a
coordinated effort to secularize Christmas."
Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association,
James Dobson's Colorado-based Focus on the Family, and Concerned
Women for America have banded together for a 2006 Christmas Project.
Chief on its agenda is a list of 'nice' retailers that use the word
'Christmas' in their stores and catalogues and 'naughty' ones that do not.
" 'It's a way to fight back against the secular progressives
and promote the real meaning of Christmas,' said Tim Wildmon, president of
the American Family Association. 'They make a statement to anyone who
looks at them and reads them that the person wearing them wants to keep
Christ in Christmas'."
The AFA found the Christmas outreach so successful that they
plan to make Easter buttons available this spring.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "More than 950 attorneys nationwide ready to combat attempts to censor
Christmas. Fourth annual Christmas Project declares, 'Merry Christmas. It's okay
to say it'," Alliance Defense Fund, 2006-NOV-15, at:
- "Wal-Mart: We're not afraid to say Merry Christmas. No. 1 retailer has
decided to abandon its generic 'Happy Holidays' greeting in favor of 'Merry
Christmas'," CNN Money, 2006-NOV-09, at:
- Eric Rauch, "Peace on Earth?," American Vision, 2006-NOV-30, at:
- "Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament," Wikipedia, at:
- "Chicago Christmas Festival Nixes 'Nativity Story' Ads Over Fears of
Offending Non-Christians," Fox News, 2006-NOV-28, at:
- "Dispute leaves holiday travelers treeless in Seattle," Associated Press,
- Paul Bedard, "It's really a Hallmark." Washington Post, 2006-DEC-01, at:
- Vision America's web site is at:
- "Help protect Christmas in America," Vision America, at:
- "Merry Christmas Request Cards," Vision America, at:
- "Merry Christmas bumper stickers," Vision America, at:
- Edmund Case and Micah Sachs, "What We Learned from the Third Annual December
Holidays Survey," InterFaithFamily, at:
- Gene Johnson, "Christmas Trees Return to SeaTac
Airport," Associated Press, 2006-DEC-12, at:
- Monte Whaley, "Ft. Collins menorah OK urged," Denver
Post, 2006-NOV-28, at:
- Monte Whaley, "A brief menorah display. Fort Collins
allows only Christmas trees on public property. A Jewish group has gotten the OK
to light the symbol of Hanukkah," Denver Post, 2006-DEC-05, at:
- Daniel Burke, "Christmas Wars Prove Lucrative
Fundraising Opportunity for Advocacy Groups,"
posted on 2006-DEC-19 to: