December 13, 2005

December 13, 2005 | Commentary on Religion and Civil Society

The War on Christmas

You may know John Gibson as host of the Fox News show " The Big Story," which airs weeknights at 5:00 p.m. (and is currently the sixth most popular news show). Or perhaps you know him from his crackerjack reporting days at NBC and MSNBC. He's always stood out as one of the best, an investigative reporter who actually ... well, investigates and reports.


But I like to think of Gibson as the cowboy he is. When not in New York, he spends time on his ranch in Texas, where he escapes the conventional "wisdom" of the big city and keeps connected to what average Americans think. Like his early American counterparts, John has always been the daring, bold sort that cares deeply about his country and its values and traditions.


Take Christmas. Gibson and his Fox News "pardna," Billy-the-Buckin' O'Reilly (host of the wildly popular, top-rated cable news program, " The O'Reilly Factor"), have been stirrin' up some trouble at the OK Media Corral as they set off on a journey to whup-up on the modern-day villains who are stealing the true meaning of Christmas.


O'Reilly led the charge in exposing how secularists and anti-religious types have for years been stripping the season of its original meaning. Now Gibson has written a well-documented book illustrating just how absurd and prevalent the efforts are.


It's drawing heavy fire, of course. Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein, for example, took a shot at it last week. He insists "there's no war on Christmas," although, by his own admission, "I did not actually read the book." He then proceeds to mock Christians: "We Jews find it a little embarrassing that adults can still make such a big fuss over Christmas. To us, Jesus was just a cool guy everyone liked because he died young."


But for those who want to read past the title, here are some case studies from " The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought."


Mustang, Okla., 2004: Mustang's Lakewood Elementary school puts on a Christmas pageant every year with a nativity scene, as well as references to Hanukah and Kwanzaa. But this year, the nativity scene is gone. School Superintendent Karl Springer banned it after the ACLU told him that the nativity scene and maybe even "Silent Night" could violate the First Amendment, and the school district's lawyer concurred. Thousands of protest e-mails and phone calls pour in.


Eugene, Ore., 2000: After a lengthy debate among city officials over whether Christmas trees are a religious or secular symbol, City Manager Jim Johnson issues an order banning the trees on public property. He had no idea he would unleash a firestorm of protest: The city was mocked by The Wall Street Journal, among others, and the story drew international attention. The next year, the order is reversed, after a little research showed that, as Johnson put it, "the Supreme Court does not believe that a Christmas tree in and of itself is a Christian symbol."


Covington, Ga., 2000: The ACLU tells a local school board that it cannot use the word "Christmas" on its calendar to describe the upcoming Christmas vacation -- and warns legal action if it does. For several years, the calendar has said "winter break" (after being changed in a fit of political correctness), but now school board member Richard Tiede wants it changed back. To him, this is a simple description of reality, not a matter of proselytizing: School is out during the last two weeks of December because the vast majority of students are celebrating Christmas.


The ACLU's Craig Goodmark disagrees: "It would be violative of the First Amendment. It would coerce these children to participate in a Christmas holiday." How a word on a calendar would force anybody to do anything is never explained.


But the war gets even more bizarre. When Gibson spoke at The Heritage Foundation on Dec. 6, he told of how parents in Plano, Texas were told in 2001 that the decorations they brought for the school's "winter" party could be white, but not red and green.


The ACLU and its fellow travelers on the left are often successful at intimidating public officials who mean well but who don't want a fight. (As a result, these officials sometimes wind up banning everything.) That's why it's important for politicians and bureaucrats, as well as parents, to find out precisely what is and isn't legal in public displays of Christmas.


To learn the facts, you can contact the Alliance Defense Fund or the American Center for Law and Justice, among others. (Gibson lists several.)


You can't count on ACLU officials, who are only too happy to see any signs of the Christian faith disappear, to counsel you on the finer points of the law. But don't let that stop you from wishing them a Merry Christmas.

Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation and the author ofHome Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad.

About the Author

Rebecca Hagelin Senior Communications Fellow

First appeared on World Net Daily.