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Who's fighting over Christmas and why?
Daily Herald ^ | December 11, 2005 | Charles C. Haynes

Posted on 12/12/2005 9:28:10 AM PST by indcons

Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas war -- or so the culture warriors would have us believe.

It's all about "happy holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" -- the politically correct vs. the religiously correct. One side goes too far by renaming the Christmas trees, while the other side goes overboard by attacking people who thought they were just being nice.

This year the Christmas crusaders appear to be winning: holiday is out, Christmas is in.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert got the message. By order of the speaker, the decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol -- known in recent years as the "Holiday Tree" -- will be rechristened "Capitol Christmas Tree."

Meanwhile in Georgia, state officials nearly started a skirmish by issuing "holiday greetings." But 30 minutes later they redeemed themselves by re-issuing "Christmas greetings."

Did the president and first lady miss the memo? The 2005 White House Christmas card arrives this week with "best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness," but nary a mention of Christmas. Religious conservatives are outraged.

William Donahue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was quoted in The Washington Post as saying: "This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture."

While politicians are getting bashed for avoiding the "C" word, business owners are facing boycotts. After Jerry Falwell and others started a "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," down came the "holiday tree" banners at Lowe's and up went the "Christmas tree" signs. And you'll now see and hear a lot more "Merry Christmas" at Target, Sears, Best Buy and other retailers under fire for omitting Christmas. (Note the irony of committed Christians defending the commercial Christmas.)

Even though batteries of Christian lawyers are threatening to "save Christmas" by suing the "happy holidays" offenders, most of these fights aren't First Amendment issues. It would only be an establishment-clause problem if government or school officials used the holiday to promote religion. But since Christmas is also a national holiday and courts tend to view Christmas trees and Santa as secular symbols, the government can put up decorated trees and call them whatever they like.

Private businesses, of course, aren't the government (and thus not subject to First Amendment restrictions). So they're free to promote or ignore religion if they wish. But merchants worry about alienating customers during the biggest shopping season of the year -- and few things divide people more than religion. Unfortunately, trying not to offend one group has offended another.

John Gibson of Fox News, among others, sees the cultural shift from "Christmas" to "holiday" as a "liberal plot." But it strikes me as mostly well-meaning attempts by educators, politicians and average citizens to acknowledge our diversity -- and by business owners to sell as much as possible to people of all faiths and none. Let's give these folks some credit for not wanting fellow Americans to feel like outsiders in their own communities.

If all sides take a deep breath and relax, we can work this out. But first we need to stop turning "happy holidays" or "Merry Christmas" into fighting words.

Declaring a ceasefire in the Christmas wars might be the best way to celebrate the season of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."

Charles C. Haynes is senior scholar at the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center. E-mail him at

Although other issues get lost in the silly, over-the-top arguments over innocuous holiday salutations and what to call the tree, Gibson, Falwell and other Christmas warriors do raise more substantive concerns. When government and school officials decide that being "inclusive" means including everything but the religious Christmas, they take concern for diversity to absurd lengths. Ignoring religion isn't being neutral; it comes across as hostility.

According to e-mails I've gotten from parents this month, some public schools think they can avoid conflict by avoiding anything that smacks of religion. One complained about a school policy ordering all staff to refer to the Christmas tree as the "sharing tree" (though what that accomplishes isn't clear since a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree by any other name).

Another was upset when her child brought home artwork featuring Santa, Kwanza and Menorahs -- but no crèches allowed. Most schools I know do better than this, but it only takes a few bad stories to paint all schools as part of a "war on Christmas."

Some communities fall into the same trap by trying to celebrate the season by excluding Jesus. Denver was the poster child for this mistake last year when city officials banned a religious float from participating in the annual Parade of Lights. All kinds of "holiday" floats were approved, but not the one from a local church.

After a major brouhaha, the city has seen the light. This year the Nativity scene will be featured on a float created by local Christian groups.

What schools and communities need to remember is that the First Amendment separates church from state, but not religion from school assemblies or holiday parades. Of course, city and school officials have no business promoting religion in December or at any other time of year. But allowing all private religious groups to express their faith at public events or in public spaces along with other groups doesn't violate the Constitution. And educationally sound teaching about religion, including what Christians actually believe about Christmas or including religious music in the school concert along with other music, is not only constitutional -- it's a good idea.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ameritaliban; christmas; culturewars; waaaaambulance; waronchristmas
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1 posted on 12/12/2005 9:28:11 AM PST by indcons
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To: indcons

Secular Extremists Still Lying About Their War on Christmas
By Michael J. Gaynor
Dec 10, 2005

Secular extremists say that there is no War on Christmas and ridicule Fox News' John Gibson for writing The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. See: John Gibson Is Right About The War on Christmas Christmas

They are lying, of course. Secular extremists have been working to restrict the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment since the First Amendment was adopted and to rewrite American history to suit themselves. Without significant success until 1947, when the United States Supreme Court outrageously opined that the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religious and irreligion (or nonreligion) and bans governmental support for religion generally.

America’s greatest chief justice, John Marshall, proclaimed in 1833: “[W]ith with us Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations to it.”

The secular extremists tried to end the military chaplaincy during the nineteenth century. But both houses of Congress studied the matter carefully and rejected the secular extremist position in the clearest possible terms.

The Senate Judiciary Committee issued a report explaining the establishment clause:

"The clause speaks of 'an establishment of religion.' What is meant by that expression? It referred, without doubt, to the establishment which existed in the mother country, its meaning is to be ascertained by ascertaining what that establishment was. It was the connection with the state of a particular religious society, by its endowment, at public expense, in exclusion of, or in preference to, any other, by giving to its member’s exclusive political rights, and by compelling the attendance of those who rejected its communion upon its worship, or religious observances. These three particulars constituted that union of church and state of which our ancestors were so justly jealous, and against which they so wisely and carefully provided...."

The report further stated that the Founders were "utterly opposed to any constraint upon the rights of conscience" and therefore they opposed the establishment of a religion in the same manner that the Church of England was established.

But, the Founders "had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people....They did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of 'atheistic apathy.' Not so had the battles of the revolution been fought, and the deliberations of the revolutionary Congress conducted."

A similar House Judiciary Committee report explained that "an establishment of religion" was a term of art with a specific meaning:

"What is an establishment of religion? It must have a creed, defining what a man must believe; it must have rights and ordinances, which believers must observe; it must have ministers of defined qualifications, to teach the doctrines and administer the rites; it must have tests for the submissive, and penalties for the nonconformist. There never was an establishment of religion without all these."

But the sly secular extremists persevered and eventually prevailed upon the United States Supreme Court to declare neutrality between religion and irreligion as constitutionally mandated and governmental support for all religions to be constitutionally prohibited.

Now "under God" in "The Pledge of Allegiance" and "In God We Trust" on America's currency and coins are under attack and, unless their original religious significance is stripped from them, Thanksgiving (when we thank God, not nothingness) and Christmas (when we celebrate the birth of Christ, not Santa Claus) eventually will have to go too.

The so-called non-existent war just reached my town. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the Town of Huntington, on Long Island, New York, was targeted by a young attorney who got his name in Newsday, Long Island's notorious secular extremist newspaper, and hopefully will be boycotted by all persons who are friendly to the free exercise of religion and patronized by people like himself, since people should spend their money to support their ideas instead of contrary ones.

Newsday reported: "Huntington officials worked all night readying staff for the coming snow, but instead they woke up to a different storm Friday: a local lawyer sued to remove a nativity scene from the town's public lawn and stop Friday's Christmas tree-lighting ceremony."

His position: the nativity scene, Christmas tree and two signs on the Village Green that read "Peace on Earth" violated his constitutional rights because of their religious overtones.

The display included a menorah, which be claimed was "dwarfed in significance and stature" and "appears as nothing more than a token attempt to be inclusive to the Jewish population."

He apparently did not sue to remove the menorah.

Judge Leonard Wexler negotiated a compromise between the complainer and the town that allowed the tree ceremony to take place. Good for him!

The compromise: the town will put up large signs stating the nativity scene was donated by Huntington's Knights of Columbus and that the menorah came from the Chabad-Lubavitch in Melville, and that that the nativity scene and the menorah are not town property.

That's fine with me. The town should give due credit to the donors. Apparently the complainer's petty grip is that Huntington's Knights of Columbus provided a bigger display than the Chabad-Lubavitch in Melville. Frankly, if the complainer wants a bigger menorah, he should donate one. I think the town, the Knights and the Chabad-Lubavitch all acted reasonably.

The town board is scheduled to vote to approve the settlement Tuesday. Judge Wexler will hold a hearing that evening in case the board does not approve the deal.

Of course, the complainer insists that he is not "anti-religion or against Christmas." "This is not an attack on Jesus or Christians," he said, while declining to disclose his faith, saying it has nothing to do with his position. "I just don't want the town endorsing one religion. Lots of people out there don't celebrate Christmas."

This nuisance lawsuit followed the recent uproar over North Hempstead Supervisor John Kaiman's handling of the town's tree-lighting ceremony in Manhasset, New York. Believe it or not, during the dedication, the Rev. Nick Zientarski invoked the name of Jesus Christ when he blessed the tree! Imagine that! A Christian cleric invoking the name of Christ while blessing a Christmas tree! The stupid supervisor immediately told the crowd, "I just want to make it clear that this is in no way a religious ceremony." He has since apologized.

Instead of correcting its egregious error, the United States Supreme Court has tried to set broad guidelines for local officials in such cases. If religious symbols are displayed on public property, there need to be enough diverse symbols so a "reasonable observer" would think it was a holiday display.

Outgoing Brookhaven Supervisor John Jay LaValle commented: "I don't know what's wrong with people today. This is an ideological situation where liberal America is trying to destroy a Christian holiday."

He's right.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, argues that there is something wrong with the battle over religious symbols and assures that "[p]eople who have a spiritual interest in the holiday are going to get the experience from their church, not the town."

But George Washington was right: "it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor...."

Reverence for God was not supposed to be restricted to churches and synagogues (and mosques), and a small, but insidiously growing, secular extremist minority was not supposed to have a veto power over the right of the overwhelming majority to have their governments--federal, state and local--acknowledge God and support religion generally without establishing an official religion or violating the private right of conscience of nonbelievers.


These companies have banned "Christmas" from their retail ads, in-store promotions or television commercials.

Please take time to let them know you are offended by their anti-Christian and anti-Christmas bias. Their contact information is below.

We cannot stress to strongly how important it is for you to be firm, yet very kind in your correspondence with these companies. Please be respectful and choose your words wisely.

In addition, companies marked with an asterisk* have gone so far as to substitute the phrase "Holiday or Dream trees" instead of "Christmas trees" in their promotions.

* Target (612) 304-6073
Target refuses to use the word "Christmas" in any of their corporate advertising. Their latest 36-page ad insert did use the phrase "holiday" 31 times. In addition, Target has banned the Salvation Army bell ringers from their stores, but opted to sell items online for customers to donate to the Salvation Army. Ironically, Target doesn't give a single cent to them, but profits from your purchase. They also charge you to ship the item to the Salvation Army.

Nordstrom (206) 628-2111 President Blake W. Nordstrom
On their "holiday shipping" section of the website, they only refer to "December 25." Their catalogs do not mention the word "Christmas." Mr. Nordstrom says he welcomes your comments.

* Sears (847) 286-2500
Sears, owned by Kmart, is advertising "Holiday" trees on page seven of their circular. It also was noticeably absent of the word "Christmas." UPDATE: Sears has confirmed that it now displays a sign reading "Merry Christmas" at the entrance to its stores nationwide.

Lowe's (800) 445-6937

We are pleased to update you about Lowe's sale of Christmas trees. Lowe's informed the AFA that it is removing banners referring to "holiday trees" from its stores (the actual product signs inside Lowe's stores did say Christmas trees, but the outside banner did not). Lowe's says it has proudly sold Christmas trees in its stores for decades, and continues to do so this year in all of its stores nationwide. All 49 varieties of live and artificial trees at Lowe's and on are labeled as Christmas trees.

Lowe's assures AFA that the language on the banner was a mistake, and was not in any way an attempt to remove Christmas from the season.

We applaud Lowe's for listening to its customers and responding to their concerns. Just as we alerted Lowe's to our concerns, now let's show them our support by sending thank you emails and shopping in their stores.

Office Max (877) 484-3629
Office Max offers no "Christmas" in their advertising.

Kmart (800) 635-6278
Kmart promotes a "Holiday Sale" on their website. Links to the trees webpage asks if you "Need it by Christmas," but refers you to its "Holiday Shipping Dates" section.

Staples (800) 378-2753
In searching for "Christmas" on their website, results show only three matches. Staples ads avoid using "Christmas."

Home Depot (800) 430-3376
Home Depot says "In order to avoid endorsing a particular set of beliefs and to encourage the diversity we desire, The Home Depot has chosen to refer to this time of year as the 'Holiday Season'." Although Home Depot says it has not banned Christmas, a search for "Christmas" on their website says, "Were you looking for Holiday Decorations?" You won't find "Christmas" in their circulars, in-store promotions, or television commercials.

Best Buy (888) 237-8289
Best Buy offers no "Christmas" in their advertising.

Kohl's UPDATE: Kohl's has provided AFA with a corporate statement. They dispute the charge made on The O'Reilly Factor and provided a letter stating they "would use the word 'Christmas' in some of our advertising." AFA is pleased to let you know that this in, in fact, the case. Kohl's asks us to inform you of their plans to incorporate "Christmas" in future advertising. We appreciate Kohl's listening to their customers concerns and responding in kind.

These companies have banned "Christmas" from their television commercials. In a review of commercials aired on prime-time broadcast network, these companies clearly marketed their ads to Christmas shoppers without using the word "Christmas." In a total of 116 commercials, only 11 (9%) included the word "Christmas" in the ad.

SC Johnson
Therese Van Ryne Public Relations Manager

L.L. Bean

David H. Sternblitz, Vice President

Julian C. Day, President and Chief Executive Officer

Outback Steakhouse

Emails to Outback are being rejected with the message, "Your message was deleted without being read." You may wish to make a personal call.
Stephanie Amberg, Director of public relations

Chris T. Sullivan Chairman of the Board

A. William Allen, III Chief Executive Officer

Benjamin P. Novello President, Outback Steakhouse


Old Navy

Old Navy is proud of their anti-Christmas stance, simply referring to the "holiday" (Christmas) as nothing more than a tradition.


H. Lee Scott, President and CEO

Best Buy
Susan Busch Director, Corporate Public Relations
612-292-4000, ext 4

Stephen M. Carter, Chief Executive Officer

Reckitt Benckiser
Tom Corran, SVP IR and corporate communications
973 404 2600

Pier 1
Merianne Kimmel Roth, Senior PR Manager

Red Lobster
Darden Media Relations
Joe R. Lee, Chairman & CEO

Office Depot
Bruce Nelson Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

James (Jim) M. Kilts Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President
John F. Manfredi SVP Corporate Affairs

Laurie, Ellison, Executive Director of Communications

Burlington Coat
Monroe G. Milstein ? Chairman, President, and CEO
Phone: 609-387-7800


Gail Carvelli Media Relations Manager
401) 431-8697

2 posted on 12/12/2005 9:32:28 AM PST by robowombat
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To: indcons

It's all about "happy holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas"

It is much more than this to me. It just representative of the assault on Christians by the ACLU and organizations bowing to the ACLU. I've had it.

3 posted on 12/12/2005 9:33:26 AM PST by ThisLittleLightofMine
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To: robowombat


I went into Fred Meyer's which is owned by Kroger's they had Christmas advertising and wished me a Merry Christmas. FYI.

4 posted on 12/12/2005 9:35:24 AM PST by ThisLittleLightofMine
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To: indcons

"strikes me as mostly well-meaning attempts by educators, politicians and average citizens to acknowledge our diversity"

Were the word "holiday" used to encompass all holidays at this time of year that argument could be valid. However, it is one particular holiday that has been targeted for replacement.

"by business owners to sell as much as possible to people of all faiths and none"

Why does a shopping season exist at this time of the year?

5 posted on 12/12/2005 9:37:35 AM PST by kenth (Come back here... so that I may brain thee!)
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To: indcons

I have yet to find anyone in any of the stores I have been to, that did not say Merry Christmas back to me.

6 posted on 12/12/2005 9:37:43 AM PST by stuartcr (Everything happens as God wants it to.....otherwise, things would be different.)
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To: robowombat
Ah, yes! The old "there is no such thing as..." argument. A Liberal favorite. They copied it from their Mafia/Union buddies. "Mafia?" What "Mafia?"
7 posted on 12/12/2005 9:41:04 AM PST by Reaganesque
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To: stuartcr

I went to Sam's Club, Saturday and the cashier wished me a Merry Christmas, I was hope happy to hear it finally!

Merry Christmas!

8 posted on 12/12/2005 9:43:26 AM PST by Die_Hard Conservative Lady (Close the borders.....)
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To: Die_Hard Conservative Lady

I always wish people a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

9 posted on 12/12/2005 9:44:46 AM PST by stuartcr (Everything happens as God wants it to.....otherwise, things would be different.)
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To: robowombat

I'm on board to read later!

10 posted on 12/12/2005 9:48:32 AM PST by ROLF of the HILL COUNTRY (( Terrorism is a symptom, ISLAM IS THE DISEASE!))
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To: robowombat

BUMP for excellence in posting!

11 posted on 12/12/2005 9:48:57 AM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: indcons

The War on Christmas probably has its roots in liberalism and the upsurge in Kwanzaa celebrations. As long as America was primarily populated by Christians and Jews, there was no problem discussing Christmas or wishing others to have a merry one.

However, America, a land once ruled by the majority, has become a land where the minority hold all the cards and get all the rights. As the profile of Muslims and Kwanzaa has raised substantially in recent years (one because of their aimless and random attacks on innocent people), Christmas, somehow, became an exclusive domain of whites (probably those EEeeeeeeeeevil heterosexual white males - the ONLY group that has not been protected through hate crime laws).

The War on Christmas is not simply one of perception, it is one of fact. The fact remains, however, that the majority of Americans consider this "happy holiday" season to be Christmas.

12 posted on 12/12/2005 9:51:12 AM PST by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
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To: indcons
Haynes at least appears to understand that the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....") does protect the free exercise of religion, but he obviously fails to realize that it was the athiest Democrat scumbags of the ACLU who brought the "culture war" to us, not the other way around.
13 posted on 12/12/2005 9:53:59 AM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: stuartcr
I always wish people a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Why "Happy Holidays"? The expression is inane.

14 posted on 12/12/2005 9:56:16 AM PST by Cobra64
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To: DustyMoment

Kwanzaa is made up BS and to give it moral equivalency with Christmas and Chanukah is BS. Whenever an institution promotes Kwanzaa we should insist equal time for Festivus!

15 posted on 12/12/2005 9:56:16 AM PST by avile
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To: indcons

If a small group of lesbian vegetarians were able to get Nestle to say uncle over third world baby formula imagine what traditional valued people can do.

16 posted on 12/12/2005 9:58:39 AM PST by avile
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To: indcons
Did the president and first lady miss the memo?

I don't think so. The card contains the the RSV text of Psalm 28:7, which should be sufficient to offend the politically correct.

17 posted on 12/12/2005 10:03:22 AM PST by Moosilauke
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To: ThisLittleLightofMine

Stop trying to confuse people with facts. There's a War on Christmas. And War is hell.

18 posted on 12/12/2005 10:03:41 AM PST by lugsoul
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To: avile

I never said that Kwanzaa was real (and, yes, I knew long ago that it was made up BS). Alll I said was that the rise of Kwanzaa seems to have coincided with the attack on Christianity.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease, you know.

19 posted on 12/12/2005 10:07:53 AM PST by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
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To: indcons

Christmas is the second Holiest day of the year for Christians. They should get off it. If they want things to get ugly, keep messing with the Christian High Holy days. They respect other religions right to High Holy Days, let them respect ours. After all, there is plenty of Christmas Cheer to go around.

Renaming the "Holiday" to be inclusive? These people do absolutely nothing to "include" others other than play a little Orwellian mind game and expect Christians not to resent it? May they repent or burn in hell.

20 posted on 12/12/2005 10:08:12 AM PST by ichabod1 (The left only wants the troops home so they can spit on them. Again.)
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