Archive for the ‘war on Christmas nonsense’ Category

The Right’s ‘Plastic Indignation’ over Christmas

December 21, 2011

We’re not the only ones, of course, who see through the political manipulation behind the right’s phony “war on Christmas” hysteria. John Young, former head of the editorial page at the Waco Tribune-Herald, offers his take on the “plastic indignation” over “Happy Holidays” and other alleged anti-Christmas outrages:

Outraged over a holiday greeting? Get real. Real Christians can find real outrages out there on the windblown streets, in the soup kitchens, in prisons, in struggling-to-get-by nursing homes, where Medicaid reimbursement rates are life-and-death matters.

Name your phony spiritual concern — that school pageants are too secular today, that local governments seek to treat the holidays in pluralistic ways. The same applies to retailers. They have Jews celebrating Hanukkah this month, as well as with adherents of Kwanzaa, and non-Christians of many stripes who just like the pretty lights and are in the mood for egg nog. They are customers. They are Americans. A business, or a nation, or a school district or city hall that doesn’t serve all of these people is running a fool’s errand.

Some Americans don’t get the whole secular nature of the American experience and never will. This nation was born as a refuge from sectarianism. Its First Amendment protections against the latter have made it the most religion-friendly construct in the history of self-governance.

Yet you have Rick Perry telling Iowa voters that “war” is being waged against Christians. Talk about plastic indignation.

I lived in Texas for a long time — Perry’s neck of the North American woods. To say that Christians, particularly the conservative, evangelical, Republican kind, are oppressed is to insinuate that the Dallas Cowboys play in a cardboard shack.

What Perry really says with this “war on Christianity” pitch to Republicans is that he doesn’t buy the notion that government should be neutral regarding faith. He thinks its job is to exalt and advertise a majority’s piety.

Read the whole thing here. And if you’ve been missing Young’s insightful columns since he left Waco, now you know where to find him.

‘Tis the ‘War on Christmas’ Silly Season

November 30, 2011

Twinkle lights, harried shoppers, excited kids and special church pageants aren’t the only signs that Christmas is just around the corner. ‘Tis the season also for the religious right’s silly and hyperbolic fundraising appeals warning of a mythical “War on Christmas.”

Every year at this time we see a virtual avalanche of emails designed to scare Christians into thinking that “the left” and “secular humanists” are bent on erasing Christmas from America. Of course, a December drive down just about any street in America belies such an absurd claim. And never mind that tens of millions of Christians in this country continue, unimpeded, to attend Christmas church services and publicly celebrate the season in a myriad of big and little ways.

No, despite all the clear evidence that Christianity generally and the celebration of Christmas specifically continue to be practiced and celebrated freely in America, we still see nonsense like this in an email blast today from Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family:

No matter what anybody says, the Left really is conducting an unrelenting war on Christmas. We have the cases to prove that.

They know that if they can confuse enough teachers and public officials about what the Constitution does and doesn’t allow, win enough cases, and brainwash enough kids to self-censor their speech at Christmas, they’ll win.

And their victory won’t just be to squash Christmas celebrations.

They’ll be well on their way to squashing all public expression of faith, as they are trying to do everywhere, all year long.

And what can Christians do to protect their freedom to wish someone Merry Christmas? How can they end their allegedly relentless persecution in a nation in which about 80 percent of the population openly and freely shares their religious faith? Give money to fanatics like the people at Liberty Institute! From the group’s email:

To get ready to respond to this year’s expected onslaught, I am establishing a special Christmas Defense Fund to pay the costs to protect the right of Christians to exercise their free speech and religious liberty rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

My goal is to raise $110,000 for the Christmas Defense Fund. Will you please help?

The Christmas Defense Fund? Seriously?

Liberty Institute, by the way, is the same group that claims social studies teachers in Texas are anti-Christmas zealots because some suggested listing Easter instead of Christmas as an example of a Christian holiday in proposed curriculum standards two years ago.

You know, it is increasingly difficult to escape the conclusion that the folks at Liberty Institute think Christians are real saps.

How Fox News Helped Hijack TX Curriculum

January 3, 2011

The Austin  American-Statesman has published a list of PolitiFact Texas articles that drew the most reader interest in 2010. Number Five on the list is a piece early in the year about Fox News co-anchor Gretchen Carlson telling viewers that the Texas State Board of Education was considering the removal of Christmas and the Constitution from social studies textbooks. PolitiFact rated that claim as a Pants on Fire lie. And it was.

TFN Insider reported about the grossly inaccurate and biased coverage Fox News gave to the state board’s debate over new social studies curriculum standards. In fact, Fox’s coverage was so riddled with mistruths that the Texas Education Agency — headed by an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Perry — issued a sharply worded press release criticizing the network’s “reporting.” The so-called “fair and balanced” network even aired a graphic labeling Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller a “textbook troublemaker.”

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Jesus Favored Tax Cuts for the Rich?

December 17, 2010

In case you missed it, on his show last night Stephen Colbert gave a theology lesson to Bill O’Reilly and the other sanctimonious supply-siders who draft Jesus into their “no help for the poor” army.

Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition. And then admit that we just don’t want to do it.

Check it out. It’s not to be missed.

Rick Perry’s War on Christmas

December 15, 2010

In his 2008 book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticizes the American Civil Liberties Union for supposedly engaging in a “war on Christmas” by forcing schools to remove references to Christmas in holiday programs and decorations.

Last year one of Gov. Perry’s loudest supporters, Liberty Institute — Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family — absurdly claimed that curriculum writers were trying to keep public school students from learning about Christmas in their social studies classrooms, shrieking: “Merry Christmas: Don’t be afraid to say it!”

But maybe Liberty Institute should have a chat with Gov. Perry and find out whether he’s “afraid to say it.” As in the past, Gov. Perry’s holiday card to thousands of his closest friends doesn’t say a word about Christmas. Click on the picture for the full version.

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Oh Please. Give It a Rest.

December 14, 2010

The right thinks the “war on Christmas” meme works so well that it gets trotted out now for just about everything. Today U.S. Senator John Kyl, R-Arizona, whined that plans by the Democratic majority to work through the holidays is somehow disrespectful of Christmas:

“It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out without doing — frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff.”

News flash for Sen. Kyl: millions of Americans will be working through the holidays this year in jobs far harder than anything facing you and your colleagues. Are their employers not respectful of Christmas? Or of their employees’ families? And maybe our terribly (boo-hoo) overworked senators wouldn’t have to work through Christmas if some of them stopped obstructing work on just about every bill. Just sayin’.

UPDATE: Now Senate Republicans are refusing to support a budget bill for 2011 that would keep the federal government open after this Saturday. Why? The bill includes earmarks for pet projects senators have in their own states. Says Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas:

“Part of the reason we’re doing this is to raise the attention of the American people and let them know what’s happening so they can express their outrage.”

But Sen. Cornyn is having trouble explaining why he put some of his own earmarks into the bill he’s now complaining about. Hmmm…

Look, the problem in Congress right now isn’t a “war on Christmas” or disrespect for Christian holidays. The real problems are a war on common sense and a lack of respect for voters. Congress isn’t getting its work done because too many of its members are grandstanding and obstructing progress on just about everything.

More about the ‘War on Christmas’ Lie

December 21, 2009

Texas, of course, isn’t the only place where the religious right is promoting the lie that Christmas is under attack by alleged Christian haters and secularists. Americans United for Separation of Church and State takes a look at how the religious right has distorted — or just plain made up — stories supposedly showing Christmas is under siege. AU’s Rob Boston notes one example — a list of scare stories promoted by FOX News (who else?) in 2005:

What we found, in every case, was that relevant facts had been omitted or that the stories were fictitious. For example, one school in Texas was accused of ordering students not to wear red and green clothes during the month of December. When I called the school, an official there just laughed. There was no such policy in place, but the school was getting so many calls on the matter it actually had to post a statement on its Web site debunking it.

Things got a little testy when I challenged the veracity of Gibson and the entire Fox network. In fact, we ended up screaming at one another. It was perhaps not my finest moment on television, but I have to admit I was angry. Hard-working people in the public schools were being slimed because some folks dislike public education and have an axe to grind.

Read Rob’s full story here.

As we’ve pointed out before, the ‘war on Christmas” nonsense is little more than a cynical fundraising gimmick for far-right groups. In fact, the religious right has even found a way to commercialize it.

Tea Partier Wants to Mandate Carols

December 13, 2009

Much of the attention on the angry Tea Party mobs over the summer and fall has been focused on their blind opposition to health insurance reform and government generally. But religious-right activists and their goals haven’t been completely absent from Tea Party ranks. In fact, their presence is one way you know that the call for limited government is little more than a political slogan — the Tea Partiers want to limit government, except when they don’t. An example:

The Tea Party movement is supposed to be all about keeping the government out of your business. But if some California members get their way, the state will force public schoolchildren to sing Christmas carols.

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Merry Christmas! (It’s the Law!)

December 5, 2009

In case you were wondering, it’s legal to wish people a “Merry Christmas.” Of course, no one really doubted that. But attorney Kelly Coghlan has decided to take the phony “War on Christmas” nonsense to even more absurd levels by letting people know that federal law officially calls December 25 “Christmas.”

Coghlan (www.christianattorney.com) is the Houston lawyer who wrote the so-called Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2007. The law requires that school events — including required student assemblies — be turned into public forums in which students may evangelize, if they choose, to fellow students and others in attendance. It’s a thinly veiled end run around constitutional protections for religious freedom and has forced public school districts across the state to pay attorneys to help them craft policies in ways that don’t get them sued.

Now Coghlan has circulated an e-mail — audience unclear, but presumably parents and perhaps school districts on his address list — reminding them that Christmas is a legal holiday. Thanks for the news flash, Kelly.

His purpose, of course, is to reinforce the misperception that Christmas is somehow under attack in America. Never mind that the vast majority of Americans celebrate the birth of Jesus with public prayer, decorations and festivities every year. And Americans have been wishing each other “Merry Christmas” since our nation’s founding without having to be reminded that it’s a federal holiday.

Even more ironic is that social conservatives like Coghlan are now turning to government as a justification for wishing people “Merry Christmas.” He even reminds readers that no one goes around wishing “Happy Holidays” before other federal holidays like Labor Day.

It’s as if folks like Coghlan have no idea how absurd they sound. And perhaps they don’t. In any case, they have become a caricature of prim-and-proper busybodies constantly pointing out the obvious to everybody else.

Read Coghlan’s e-mail for yourself:

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‘War on Christmas’ Watch

December 2, 2009

Drive down almost any street in America and you can see it’s that time of year again. Christmas trees strapped to cars or in the back of pickup trucks headed home. Glittering string-lights stretched across eaves and wrapped around shrubs. Colorful holiday displays in front yards. Church signs with messages of peace and the holy birth.

It should be clear to most people that Christmas is thriving in America today — unless your post box or e-mail account has been filled with paranoid messages from religious-right groups. This is prime fundraising season for the religious right, and the phony “War on Christmas” in America is a big moneymaker for those seeking to frighten people about a supposed anti-Christian conspiracy by “secular humanists,” atheists and assorted other demons.

An e-mail from the far-right group In God We Trust today illustrates our point:

The national advocacy group In God We Trust today condemned efforts of national atheist organizations and left-wing legal groups aimed at terrorizing Americans into not celebrating Christmas.

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Why Is Gail Lowe Attacking Teachers?

October 15, 2009

Sometimes politicians find it easier to point fingers at everybody else for the problems they helped create themselves. That certainly seems true for Gail Lowe, the Republican from Lampasas who chairs the Texas State Board of Education.

The state board has been bombarded with thousands of e-mails and letters from people concerned about the ongoing revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. We obtained through a Texas Public Information Act request copies of those e-mails as well as replies from board members. In her replies Ms. Lowe tries to shift blame for problems to teachers and the news media, and her words are as insulting as they are disingenuous.

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Tell the Truth, Terri Leo

October 2, 2009

Add Terri Leo to the list of irresponsible Texas State Board of Education members attacking the faith of teachers and others who are helping revise the state’s social studies curriculum standards. She’s also not telling the truth, and she knows it.

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Looking for a Real ‘War on Christmas’?

September 16, 2009

Now WorldNetDaily — the fringe Web site that promotes one far-right conspiracy theory after another — is peddling the bogus “war on Christmas” story in Texas. But that’s not the only thing WND is peddling. Read on to find out how the Web site does a pretty good job of demeaning Christmas all on its own.

Dave Welch, head of the U.S. Pastor Council and Houston Area Pastor Council, leads the charge in an essay on WND. Welch criticizes social studies curriculum writers in Texas for proposing to drop Christmas and add the Hindu and Buddhist festival of Diwali in a requirement that students learn about significant religious holidays and observances from the world’s major religions. Welch charges that the proposed changes are an attack on Christmas, Christianity and America’s heritage:

“Secular, anti-Christian revisionists want our children to think that all religions are equal, that there are many paths to God, god-consciousness, Mother Earth, etc., and that all religions and cultures produce equal fruits.  It is beyond disturbing that many if not most educational experts in charge of the majority of our nation’s children believe this to be true.”

Never mind that the requirement appears in a course about world cultures, not the United States. Never mind that Christianity isn’t univerally practiced around the world. And never mind that curriculum writers wanted to offer one example for each of the world’s major religions, including Easter for Christianity. Why let facts get in the way of manufactured outrage?

Welch goes on to describe the significance of Christmas:

“It’s about the name of Jesus, stupid.  At the end of the day, it is always about the name and the divinity of Jesus Christ.”

But not for WorldNetDaily, apparently. In the middle of Welch’s essay we find an advertising link taking readers to the “WND Superstore”:

Don’t be afraid to communicate the true meaning of Christmas with a “Reason for the Season” auto magnet – order one for each of your vehicles!

That’s right. For just $3.99 you can advertise the real “Reason for the Season” with a tacky auto magnet. (Hurry while supplies last!) According to the “WND Superstore”:

“Here’s another way to express yourself this Christmas season — and the next and the next! This durable ‘Reason for the Season Auto Magnet’ is a 7-inch Christmas tree image with a Nativity scene within–the perfect reminder that Jesus is the true reason we celebrate Christmas.”

So the religious right — always looking for a reason to be outraged — has no problem with commercializing the birth of Jesus to earn a few bucks. If Welch is looking for a real “war on Christmas,” he doesn’t need to look much further than the Web site that published his hypocritical essay. But he finds it easier to attack hard-working teachers helping write a curriculum that gives Texas students a well-rounded education.

David Barton Thinks You’re Stupid

September 14, 2009

That seems a reasonable conclusion after reading David Barton’s review of the first draft of new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. He clearly hopes that Texans are gullible enough to buy the “war on Christmas” nonsense he and other far-right fanatics have been screaming about the last few years.

Barton’s review attacks curriculum writers for replacing Christmas with the Hindu and Buddhist festival of Diwali in a standard on significant holidays and religious observances in cultures around the world. We told you that a far-right pressure group on Friday was making the same cynical criticism. Barton writes in his review:

“To mention five religions and then mention five holidays ignores the Free-Market nature of America, even among religions. American is not evenly divided among these five religions. . . . The culture of America is not accurately reflected by pretending that all five religions have equal adherents.”

Barton assumes anyone who reads his criticism won’t know that he’s talking about curriculum standards for a course on world geography and cultures, not the United States. The list of religions and holidays isn’t supposed to “accurately reflect” American culture. It’s supposed to reflect the variety of cultures from around the world. He also hopes they won’t learn that the curriculum writers included Easter as the Christian holiday or that teachers are free to include any other holidays as they discuss the world’s major religions.

Barton is determined to stir people up with some notion that they and their faith are somehow under attack. But under attack by whom? The Christians who make up the curriculum writing teams? He thinks most people are too stupid or lazy to ask that question. He’s hoping they will simply gather their torches and pitchforks and march on the Texas Education Agency. Well, that and send him and the advocacy group he leads a generous donation for “protecting” Christianity.

All of which brings us again to this question: why in the world is Barton, a professional political activist who has no real academic qualifications in the social sciences, playing such a leading role in revising our state’s public school curriculum?

The War on Common Sense

September 11, 2009

A Texas-based group affiliated with James Dobson’s far-right Focus on the Family is charging that an alleged “war on Christmas” has now moved to the debate over public school social studies curriculum standards in Texas. But the “evidence” the group provides is so absurd that they must think Texans are just plain stupid and gullible.

In an e-mail to activists, the group cynically charges that the first draft of the proposed new curriculum standards removes Christmas from a list of holidays students might learn about and replaces it with Diwali, a major festival in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism:

“At stake is how Texas children are taught about the religious heritage of our country, the basic principles of civics, and the entire study of important and worthy individuals who have contributed in different ways to American society. For instance, the new proposed version removes Christmas from the current curriculum and replaces it with Diwali, in a section on ‘religious holidays and observances to be studied by students.'”

A spokesperson for the group shrieks in a blog post:

“It’s outrageous that the war on Christmas continues in our state and in our nation. This effort to mislead students about current society is shameful and must be stopped.”

Shame on them.

We know the “war on Christmas” lie has been a fund-raising bonanza for the religious right. But is it too much to ask that folks who claim to be so pious actually obey God’s commandment not to bear false witness? Some facts:

  • The course that includes this standard isn’t about American culture, civics and society. It’s a world geography and cultures class for Grade 6.
  • The standard focuses on “the significance of religious holidays and observances” around the world, not just in the United States. The original standard suggested two Christian holidays as well as Jewish and Islamic religious observances. The new standard keeps Easter as one Christian holiday but replaces Christmas with Diwali because the writing team wanted one example from each of the world’s major religions.

It’s cynical and insulting to suggest that the writing teams removed Christmas from the standards because of any bias against Christianity or to be somehow “politically correct.” (In fact, it’s likely that the vast majority of writing team members — if not all of them — are Christians.) The course is about world geography and cultures, and the team was making the standard stronger and more representative of world cultures.

But don’t bother talking sense to far-right groups trying to raise money by whipping their activists into a steaming froth. They’re too busy promoting a phony “war on Christmas.” The real war, however, is the one the religious right has launched on common sense in our children’s classrooms.