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Scrooges losing war on Christmas

What is it about Christmas that brings out all the Scrooges?

Every December we hear stories about atheists and secularists who have found novel ways to try and banish Christmas from public view. We call it “the war on Christmas.” But if secularists are fighting a war it’s a disproportionate one: The scrooges are badly outnumbered by a majority of Americans who still embrace the holiday.

This year saw the usual attempts by governments to erase the true meaning of Christmas. The city of Santa Monica, California’s banned nativity scenes from public places. For 60 years, area churches had displayed life-sized nativity scenes in Palisades Park.

A few years ago, an offended atheist demanded to set up his own display. So the city decided to allot a limited number of spaces for “winter displays” in the park and set up a lottery for the spots. Everyone, believers and non-believers, had an equal chance to share their message.

This year, however, the city decided the effort was too much of a bother and banned all displays, including Christian nativity scenes. That, of course, was the atheist’s ultimate goal. The frustrated churches took the city’s blanket ban to court and lost.

It’s sometimes comical to see the lengths to which secularists will go to keep Christmas out of the public square. Last year Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee caved in to political correctness and decided to call the state’s Christmas tree a “holiday tree,” Scores of citizens showed up for the official lighting of the state’s “holiday tree” and began singing “O Christmas Tree.” Oh, the horror.

In order to avoid a repeat performance of “O Christmas Tree” at this year’s lighting ceremony, Chafee provided the public just 30 minutes advance notice of the lighting ceremony. What a scrooge!

Lincoln Chafee used to be a United States Senator and a Republican. His father was a senator too. But Chafee left the GOP, embarrassed by its conservatism, and is now a left-leaning Independent.

His blue-blood New England family probably named him after the country’s first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. What would Abraham Lincoln think about a future namesake who was so committed to stripping religion out of the public square that he tried to light the “holiday tree” without anyone noticing? Anyway, the story here is not Chafee’s sad attempt not to offend but rather the public’s response.

Earlier this month senior citizens at The Willows apartment complex in Newhall, California, were informed that Christmas trees and menorahs in communal areas were being removed because they were religious symbols. This was not a government-run nursing home, but a privately-run nursing home.

There used to be a time when we kept pornography out of public view. Now porn is prevalent, but religious symbols must be hidden. Thankfully, a public backlash led the retirement community’s management company to back down.

Obviously, a private company can do what it wants. But why would it go out of its way to offend so many? Someone got the idea that religious symbols, even in a communal area on private property, were somehow unacceptable.

Nativity scenes and religious icons seem to be favorite targets. A Coptic Christian church in Charlton, Massachusetts, was broken into and vandalized last month. Members of the church arrived to find “God is dead” written on a cross, an inverted pentagram on the forehead of the Christ Child, and the eyes of the Virgin Mary gouged out.

Three weeks ago in Portland, Oregon, 100 year-old Italian marble statues of Joseph, the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus were knocked off their bases, and the heads of each statue decapitated. Two weeks ago, the Harvest Church of God in Louisville, Kentucky, was vandalized. Windows were shattered. The pastor’s office was ransacked. Profanity was “spray-painted throughout the building.”

Last week, a 4-foot porcelain statue of Jesus was stolen from a Catholic church in Brooklyn. Police are investigating the robbery as a possible hate crime. And in Forest, Virginia, five teenagers are facing charges after they stole and destroyed a 12-piece nativity scene from an area church.

Attacks on churches aren’t confined to Christmas, but it’s disturbing that a time of so much joy and thanksgiving can also elicit so much hatred.

This month the group American Atheists paid for a giant billboard in New York’s Time Square. The billboard shows a picture of Santa Clause above a depiction of Jesus on the cross. The caption reads beneath Santa reads, “Keep the MERRY.” The caption below Jesus reads, “Dump the MYTH!” I’m not sure how the Scrooges expect to win any converts with such mean-spirited displays.

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 68 percent of Americans prefer the greeting “merry Christmas,” while just 23 percent would rather be greeted with “happy holidays.” Another Rasmussen survey found 81 percent of people who celebrate Christmas believe it should be celebrated as a religious holiday. So move over, Santa, Jesus is coming to town.

Polls show slightly more Americans now identify as atheists and agnostics. But activist atheists shouldn’t take this as proof that the country rejects Christmas. Most Americans still understand the real reason for the season, and want to keep Christ in Christmas.

Former presidential candidate Gary L. Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.

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