Mon, Dec 19, 2005 - Page 13 News List

The war over Christmas has begun

DPA , LOS ANGELES

Christians are fighting to keep Christ in Christmas.

PHOTO: AP

First there was the war on drugs. Then came the war on terror. Now America's conservatives are deeply involved in another fight-to-the-death crusade that pits good against evil, faithful against heathens and the righteous against the sinners.

They call it "The War on Christmas."

In churches and living rooms, religious folks lament the attack on Christmas, supposedly masterminded by the left-wing conspiracy in the media.

The proof? In malls and schools across the nation, in private homes and public buildings, and even, Lord have mercy, in the White House itself, the traditional greeting of Merry Christmas has been replaced by "Happy Holidays."

The 1.4 million greeting cards sent out by US President George W. Bush portrayed the presidential pets sitting in the snow outside the White House and offered recipients "Best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness."

The annual White House greeting card has been secular for 13 years, and the last president to send explicitly Christmas greetings was Bush's father in 1992. But this year, as some folks even try to commit the heresy of calling Christmas trees festival trees, conservatives have decided to make a stand.

Pluralistic holiday language might seem fitting for a country that calls itself the world's greatest democracy, whose constitution enshrines the idea of separation between church and state.

But not to the combatants in the War on Christmas.

"It's all part of the secular progressive agenda to get Christi-anity and spirituality and Judaism out of the public square," conservative populist Bill O'Reilly of Fox News said.

One of the main targets in the war appears to be the American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime conservative bogeyman. Numerous religious organizations like the Catholic League and the American Family Association called for boycotts of chain stores like Target and Wal-Mart for their failure to acknowledge the birth of the messiah.

American Family Association President Tim Wildmon said stores should display "Merry Christmas" signs prominently "if they expect Christians to come in and buy products during this so-called season."

But opponents see a powerful religious sector, which already dominates the political landscape, now inventing a crisis to raise money and divert attention from the real issues facing the US.

"These are the things that we should be talking about when we are waging this war in Iraq, we should be equating it to the war on Christmas," liberal radio host Sam Seder said when debating Knight on CNN.

The notion of a war on Christmas is "nonsense," Jeremy Gunn, director of the ACLU's Programme on Freedom of Religion and Belief said.

"Christians can put religious displays on church and personal property, and the ACLU will defend their right to do so," Gunn said.

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