Fri, Dec 17, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US conservatives fighting for a `Merry Christmas'

THE GUARDIAN , WASHINGTON

America's religious right, encouraged by the re-election of US President George Bush, has launched a new offensive against secularism during this holiday season, with a campaign to put the Christ back into Christmas.

The target of the conservatives' wrath include leading department stores and state schools, at the hub of the struggle for America's soul because public education is the country's defining institution.

"Christmas is becoming taboo," said John Whitehead, the founder of an ultra-conservative Virginia organization known as the Rutherford Institute.

"There is a pervasive political correctness movement in this country, and it is probably strongest in the public schools and in the major corporations," he said.

But the Christian brigades are fighting back. In California, the Committee to Save Merry Christmas has launched a boycott of Macy's department store, and its parent company, for wishing shoppers Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

Organizers cited "the recent presidential election showing political correctness is offending millions of Americans."

In North Carolina, a church recently took out full-page newspaper advertisements urging the faithful to patronize shops that include Merry Christmas in ads and displays.

America's state-run schools by law have to remain neutral on questions of faith. During the last decade, US state schools have moved towards curricula which teach children about a variety of religions.

But that approach does not satisfy all parents. In Maine, two mothers launched a Web site called bringbackchristmas.org which argues that Americans have become overly sensitive about not offending minorities.

"We don't like to be melodramatic, but we are facing a world in which there are a couple million people in the Middle East whose avowed purpose is the destruction of America. By whitewashing ourselves, hiding and hushing our beliefs, and bowing to the pressure to silence who we really are, we are handing those people their victory," the Web site says.

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