The War on Christmas Has Not Let Up
This year’s battles in the ongoing War on Christmas are being fought around the country. Private companies, which aren’t subject to the First Amendment, are being pressured into removing signs of Christmas. Public areas such as schools are required by established Supreme Court law to have a balance of Christmas symbols, if they choose to display them at all. Groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation are quick to send letters threatening lawsuits to public entities citing noncompliance.
It’s not just a problem for public works, of course. Many private businesses restrict the celebration of Christmas. Liberty Counsel has put together a “Naughty or Nice” list. It names businesses that celebrate or don’t celebrate Christmas. The companies that made the naughty list don’t use the word “Christmas.” They replace it with “Happy Holidays” or something similar.
A few examples of the public war on Christmas:
School officials at Ramage Elementary in West Virginia’s Boone County canceled the performance of a live nativity scene. The students were forced to put on the play off-campus. The Department of Education cited a U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision in March in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Concord Community Schools.
A principal at Manchester Elementary School in Nebraska banned all kinds of symbols of Christmas. She banned Santa Claus. She even banned candy canes. Liberty Counsel got the decision was reversed. Administrators placed the principal on leave.
A senior living facility in Chehalis, Washington, banned residents from saying “Merry Christmas.” They cannot sing religious Christmas carols. Nor can they display any religious Christmas items in the common areas. This includes the doorposts of the building’s apartments. The facility claims it must ban such things because the facility gets funding from HUD. This was dumb. The Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to the facility explaining the problem.
And Yet More Examples
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, sort of a military version of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, told Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota that encouraging air men to volunteer with the Salvation Army to help the poor is unconstitutional. The MRFF objects to the Salvation Army’s religious nature. It also dislikes the fact airmen would be helping families celebrate Christmas.
Robious Middle School in Virginia banned Christmas carols that mention Jesus. The school uses secularized names such as “Winter Concert” and “Holiday Party.” First Liberty sent the school a letter explaining that the law does not require public schools to censor “sacred” content from holiday events.
The Minden Junior Service League performed a free Christmas play for years at a local high school in Louisiana during school hours. The “Toy Story” themed play briefly mentioned Jesus. The school district asked them to remove the reference. When MJSL refused, the school told them they could no longer put on the play. The school cited a court decision brought about by the ACLU.
The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists is demanding that Velma Matson Upper Elementary School in Michigan remove a display of the Three Wise Men featured on its roof. The superintendent of Newaygo Public Schools is refusing to comply. He says the display also serves a secular purpose. Students of the school constructed the wooden figures, going back to the 1940s. They have been a fixture in the community.
Another Way of Fighting the War
Sometimes cities push back — but only a little. But even that is an expression of the war on Christmas.
Take Gig Harbor, Washington. The Stream previously covered the story of the coastal city’s nativity scene. Officials removed it from a public park in 2016. The city caved to threats of a lawsuit from FFRF. The city council reversed its decision last month and allowed the creche back at the park.
Sounds good. But the creche has been returned to public land only as part of a larger display that includes secular symbols. The message? Christmas is just a thing for Christians with no more value or truth than anything else.
Another city in Washington did something else. After complaints, the City of Woodland moved a nativity scene from a public park to private property. Ironically, the religious display is actually far more visible to passersby now than it was on city property. Sounds good, right? But the message? That Christianity is only okay as a private expression. It has no public value.
In Wadena, Minnesota, FFRF got a court to order the city to remove a Nativity scene from a park in 2015. The city had displayed it for 40 years. This year the city’s mayor is urging residents to get their Christmas Nativity scenes out for the holiday. Sounds good too. But it gives the same message as moving the creche to private property. Christianity is only okay as a private and personal expression. It’s something people can do in the privacy of their home but their city can’t do in public.
What do all these ways of pushing back do? They accept secularists pushing Christianity out of the public square. They accept the secularist claim that Christianity should be solely a private affair. In other words, the way cities push back give victories to the secularists.