Thursday, December 9, 2004

Is America ready for C——-mas?

Christmas has been sanitized in schools and public squares, in malls and parades where Santa’s OK, Jesus Christ is not. “Jingle Bells” rocks, but forget about “Silent Night.”

Some hope to assure the nation that it’s all right to say “Merry Christmas.”

Champions of creches, live Nativity scenes, Christmas trees, greeting cards and salutations offer compelling evidence that December 25 is still a religious holiday — not a violation of separation of church and state.

They are ready to rumble.

“Those who think that the censoring of Christmas is a blue-state phenomenon need to consider what happened today in the Wichita [Kansas] Eagle,” said William Donahue of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

The Kansas newspaper ran a correction, he said, for mistakenly referring to a “Christmas Tree” rather than a “Community Tree” at the Wichita Winterfest celebration.

“It’s time practicing Christians demanded to know from these speech-code fascists precisely who it is they think they are protecting from dropping the dreaded ‘C-word’” Mr. Donahue said yesterday.

Some are particularly irked by public bans on Christmas carols.

“The fact is, 96 percent of us celebrate Christmas. For a small minority to force their way and their will on the public majority is unconscionable,” said Greg Scott of the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).

“People are tired of efforts to sanitize religious expression. This policy against even instrumental Christmas music in schools violates common sense and is neither necessary nor constitutional,” Mr. Scott added.

Sworn to protect “religious liberty,” the ADF has issued a seven-point legal primer citing court decisions made from 1963 to 2004 that neutralize the notion that the U.S. Constitution requires government officials to eliminate public mention of Christmas.

They’ve sent their findings to more than 5,000 schools nationwide and enlisted about 800 pro-Christian lawyers to stand by, should lawsuits emerge.

“The bottom line: It’s okay to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ regardless of the legal threats from the American Civil Liberties Union and its allies,” the ADF states.

The Virginia-based Rutherford Institute, which also advocates religious freedom, issued a step-by-step guide to help the public understand the legalities of Christmas.

“Whether through ignorance or fear, Americans are painfully misguided about the recognition of religious holidays,” said John W. Whitehead, the group’s president. “There is an irrational bias against anything remotely religious unless it’s sanitized and secularized, and unfortunately, far too many parents, students and teachers erroneously believe they cannot do anything.”

Much has annoyed defenders of Christmas in the past two weeks.

Denver, for example, refused to allow a Christian church float in the city’s holiday parade, because “direct religious themes” were not allowed. Homosexual American Indians, Chinese lion dancers and German folk dancers, however, were welcome.

The mayor of Somerville, Mass., issued a formal apology this week to anyone offended by a press release “mistakenly” issued from his office that called the town “holiday party” a “Christmas party.”

School districts in Florida and New Jersey have banned Christmas carols altogether, and an “all-inclusive” holiday song program at a Chicago-area elementary school included Jewish and Jamaican songs, but no Christmas carols.

Meanwhile, a Kirkland, Wash., high-school principal nixed a production of “A Christmas Carol” because of Tiny Tim’s prayer, “God bless us everyone,” while neighboring libraries banned Christmas trees.

Ken Schramm, a commentator with an ABC television affiliate in Seattle, dismissed it all as “P.C. smothering” yesterday.

Down in Kentucky, local officials rejected the offer of Grace Baptist Church to stage a live Nativity scene in a public square.

Such actions have not fazed the Chicago-based God Squad, a group of carpenters and volunteers who have built a giant Nativity scene at Daley Center Plaza in downtown Chicago every year since 1987, despite outcries from the ACLU, the American Jewish Congress and American Atheists.

“Our Founding Fathers didn’t intend to take religion out of the state. They took state out of religion,” organizer Jim Finnegan told reporters when this year’s construction began shortly after Thanksgiving.

The Nativity is still there.

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