Frontlines On the War On Christmas
By Kristen Fyfe
There’s good news and bad news this Christmas. First, the good. Americans are pushing back more than ever against the generic “holiday” tide (see Santa’s Helpers list below). As part of that effort, CMI is unveiling the Grinch-o-Meter, which rates those who are Christmas-challenged.
But here’s the bad: Some of the Grinches seem to be scaling new heights of peevishness and absurdity. And although the national news media are largely ignoring the cultural battle underway, local news sources have been rich with detail.
Here is a roundup of some of the more interesting people, institutions and media stories in this season’s Christmas culture clash, with their Grinch-o-Meter ratings. The Grinch-o-Meter is CMI’s new tool for measuring the Grinchiness of those seeking to secularize, diminish or tarnish the celebration of Christmas in America. People who actively seek to wreck Christmas for others (for example, ACLU lawsuits regarding nativity scenes), or do something profoundly petty, get a 10. Others who start off Grinchy and then correct themselves receive a middling score. People who embrace and promote Christmas without having their arms twisted get a zero on the Grinch-o-Meter.
*Ft. Collins, Colorado – The city created a Holiday Display Task Force, which recommended banning red and green lights and using only white ones and only secular symbols. A local ACLU representative was on the task force. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly reported on November 27 that the task force’s recommendations were “rebuffed.” The Council voted 6-1 to keep their Christmas decorations. [Task Force gets a Grinch-o-Meter 10; the council gets a 2]
*Ridgeland Schools – The Oak Lawn, Illinois district was going to do away with Christmas parties. But parents raised a fuss, so the school board decided that rather than take Christmas parties off the agenda, they would include celebrations of Ramadan and other Muslim holidays. [Grinch-o-Meter initially registered a 10, but dialed back to a 5]
*Companies that operate government-assisted housing for senior citizens – In Plant City, Florida and Troy, Pennsylvania, residents were told they cannot decorate common areas in their buildings with religious symbols at Christmas. After being contacted by Liberty Counsel these companies reversed their decisions. [Grinch-o-Meter initially registered a 10, but dialed back to a 2]
*Spokane, Washington – The Associated Press reported that the Spokane Public Schools sent home a calendar for elementary school students with “important dates” for December. Hanukkah, Human Rights Day, winter break, first day of winter, Kwanzaa and the Islamic holy day of Eid-al-Adha were on the list, but one rather significant holiday beginning with a “C” didn’t make the cut. A school spokesperson said, “In our efforts to be inclusive we missed the obvious.” The school corrected the omission in the online calendar. [Grinch-o-Meter registered 10 initially but dialed back to 2]
*Barbara Walters – During the December 13 episode of ABC’s The View, Walters whined about the White House Christmas card because it quotes the Bible’s book of Nehemiah. “Don’t you think it’s a little interesting that the president of all the people is sending out a religious Christmas card?” she asked her co-hosts. [Grinch-o-Meter: 9]
*New York City officials – gave the Christian Defense Coalition a Scrooge-like two-hour window to display a small nativity scene in midtown Manhattan. The display is part of “The Nativity Project,” a nationwide campaign to set up nativity scenes in well-traveled public areas. [Grinch-o-Meter: 9]
*Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – The airport made major headlines last Christmas when it removed all of the Christmas trees on display throughout the airport after being threatened with a lawsuit if a menorah was not also included in the display. This year, the airport convened a “holiday decorations advisory committee” which determined that the airport would not use any decorations with religious connotations. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports this year’s décor is a “grove of luminous birches up to 30 feet high and hung with crystals and mirrors to reflect colored, low-energy lights.” Above the trees will be a “spiraling flock of migrating birds cut out of foam.” Wind chimes will occasionally ring as well. [Grinch-o-Meter: 9]
*Chattanooga, Tennessee officials - For years the city has included a live nativity scene in its public festivities. This year, after receiving a complaint, the city decided to do away with the nativity scene. A public backlash resulted in the nativity scene being moved to a local church. [Grinch-o-Meter: 9]
*Hollywood, California – For 75 years the city has sponsored a Hollywood Christmas Parade, but it refused to sponsor the parade this year. The Los Angeles City Council has taken over, and is changing the name to the Hollywood Santa Parade. [Grinch-o-Meter: 8]
*The Texas Gas Transmission Company – The company ended a four-decade-long tradition in Owensburg, Kentucky of displaying a large, lighted cross. The company’s president, H. Dean Jones II, said the cross was a religious symbol and the company didn’t want to alienate people of other faiths. [Grinch-o-Meter: 8]
*Missouri State University – The college took down a Christmas tree from an atrium in a campus building after a Jewish faculty member said it “showed a lack of sensitivity” to people of other religions. After the local press reported the story, the administration reconsidered and put the tree back up. [Grinch-o-Meter registered 8 initially but dialed back to 2]
*Oberlin, Ohio artist Keith McGuckin – Last year it was gingerbread Nazis with Swastika-labeled candles. This year, McGuckin has created a murderous snow woman and a drug smuggling elf. His art is on display at the Oberlin Public Library and a local crafts store, according to WEWS in Cleveland. [Grinch-o-Meter: 7]
*The Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Bureaucrats initially ordered all state parks to remove Nativity scenes because of one complaint. After being contacted by Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal defense organization, the ODNR changed its stance and decided to continue “prior holiday traditions.” [Grinch-o-Meter: 6]
*New Hyde Park, New York school officials – The district drew the ire of more than 250 residents when it considered changing the name of school Christmas Concerts to Holiday or Winter Concerts. The New York Times reported the large crowd came out in August to demand to keep “Christmas” in the Christmas concerts. The district reportedly was considering the change based on a single complaint. [Grinch-o-Meter: 5]
Overall, the Grinches seem to be losing ground to common sense and tradition.
During the Nov. 27 broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor, conservative talk radio host Mike Gallagher said he believed that the rise of conservative voices in the media, especially on talk radio and on Fox News Channel, has helped shift the tide in the War on Christmas.
No doubt the clashes will continue. The ACLU [Grinch-o-Meter: 10-plus] typically only has to threaten a lawsuit against a town or school, and administrators will buckle. On top of that, advertisers and retailers continue to hype the generic “Holiday” at the expense of Christmas. The “Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh” ads by carmaker Hyundai come to mind. [Grinch-o-Meter: 8] Retailers like Banana Republic, The Gap (also owns Old Navy), Eddie Bauer and Petco [collective Grinch-o-Meter: 8] spend massive amounts of advertising dollars and use only the word “Holiday.” Some companies go to ridiculous lengths not to mention Christmas. Circuit City and CVS [Grinch-o-Meter: 8] have ads for “Free Shipping” or a “Holiday Shipping Schedule” for delivery by December 24. That would be Christmas Eve.
Other retailers have been more responsive. Lowe’s, the home improvement chain, came under fire in November when one of its circulars carried the banner “Family Trees” over pictures of Christmas trees. Lowe’s issued a public apology and said it would be advertising them as Christmas trees this year. [Grinch-o-Meter: 3] Home Depot still calls the conifers (both fake and live) “Holiday Trees.” [Grinch-o-Meter: 9]
For current lists of retailers who are Christmas friendly, check Focus on the Family and Liberty Counsel, which regularly update their information.
And then there are television networks. Again, the push/pull of the Christmas clash is evident. Every year, different networks air classic Christmas movies or TV shows like Charlie Brown’s Christmas, in which Linus recites the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth. It is always the top-rated show across multiple demographics when it airs. [ABC aired the program this year. Grinch-o-Meter: 0] In contrast, more than two-thirds of the publicly owned PBS stations refused to air the program “The Birth of Christ,” the CD of which is currently No. 4 on the Billboard charts. [For those 200+ stations, Grinch-o-Meter: 10].
There is little doubt that the culture clash surrounding Christmas will not end any time soon. In a Chicago Tribune article about the Oak Lawn schools’ Christmas-Ramadan brouhaha, Bernard Beck, a sociology professor emeritus at Northwestern University, said demographic shifts often create such conflicts. He added that religious tolerance in America is constantly being renegotiated.
Despite the continuing liberal efforts to sanitize the religious aspects of Christmas and make it just another holiday, renegotiation is, in fact, happening. The Christmas Spirit is spreading, as attested by the activities of people like those who made our Santa’s Helper List: