Special Report: Taking ‘Christ’ Out of Christmas

Christmas: a season of generosity, good cheer, preparation for Christ’s birth – and a swarm of lawyers seeking to purge any mention of Christianity from the public square.

Every Christmas, the so-called secular community starts shrieking whenever any mention of religion is brought into the public eye. Lawyers successfully targeted a school’s performance of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ Even Christmas trees have too much religious content to suit the self-appointed censors.

Secularist Grinches have long sought to obscure “the reason for the season.” But censorship of Christianity is increasingly a media mission for all seasons; Christians are pressured to hide their public faith under baskets. From the media-driven assault on Christian restaurant Chick-fil-A to increasingly snide commentary masquerading as journalism, the media are increasingly pushing for a public retreat from religion. 

And it’s working, at least according to one study. In October, Pew reported that a fifth of the American public, and a third of adults under 30, have no religious affiliation. And 88 percent of those people aren’t interested in belonging to a church.

Federal, state, and local governments have taken up the mantle of censors of publicly expressed Christianity. A lawsuit filed by 43 different Catholic institutions against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate received next to no coverage from the broadcast networks. Government efforts have also been implemented against crosses put up in public. 

Schools are also displaying increasingly hostility to Christianity. One North Carolina school even refused to allow a first grader to recite her poem in an assembly because it mentioned the word God. Louisiana State University (LSU) photo-shopped crosses out of pictures on their official website. Schools across the South have been pressured by atheist groups to repress longstanding traditions of prayer before football games. 

The media, government, and schools, pushed by secularist groups, aim to litigate, browbeat, and photo-shop Christianity out of the public sphere. Christmas remains their most high-profile target, but increasingly, it’s an all-weather campaign. 

Have a Holly Jolly Winter Festival

It wouldn’t be Christmas without the secular crowd actively trying to censor the holiday (especially the religious aspects) out of existence. This annual assault grows more and more intensive – and more ridiculous – each year. 

The most ridiculous effort was the efforts of an anonymous parent who tried to stop production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at an Arkansas school, because, as attorney Anne Orsi explained: “The problem is that it’s got religious content and it’s being performed in a religious venue and that doesn’t just blur the line between church and state — it oversteps it entirely.” 

In Hawaii, the Department of Education canceled an annual Christmas concert over the threat of a lawsuit. A group called Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church objected to involvement of a church in organizing and publicizing the event, which has for years raised money for the poor of Africa.

Back on the mainland, the city of Santa Monica, Calif., has banned Nativity scenes in Palisades Park, where they’d been a holiday feature for decades. “Last year, atheists overwhelmed the city's auction process for display sites, winning 18 of 21 slots and triggering a bitter dispute,” according to a report. Rather than get involved in the argument, the city simply banned all displays, and a federal judge dismissed a Christian group’s lawsuit to for the city to repeal the policy. 

Even the dreaded Christmas tree is too religious for some people. Senior citizens in Los Angeles were told they couldn’t have a Christmas tree in their apartment complex because it’s a “religious symbol.” Western Piedmont Community College told students that they could not use the word “Christmas” – to promote a Christmas tree sale. And the replacements for Christmas items are predictably secular. Frosty the Snowman replaced a Nativity scene at one school in the Florida panhandle. 

Of course, clever public officials realize they might head off criticism and burnish their diversity credentials by preemptively calling things by different names. That’s what liberal Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) did last year, renaming the state capitol’s Christmas tree a “holiday tree.” But, as Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn recently described it, “a flash mob of carolers showed up at the lighting ceremony and delivered themselves of a rousing rendition of ‘O Christmas Tree.’ To avoid a repeat, this year Gov. Chafee announced the tree lighting ceremony only 30 minutes before it happened.” 

And of course there are the annual denials from the left that a war on Christmas exists, as the Media Research Center has documented over the years. Liberal comedian Jon Stewart launched a broadside at Fox News for raising the issue of the “war on Christmas,” mocking Fox hosts as “nuts.” 

This denial is singularly hypocritical, coming from a comedian who got in trouble for showing a “vagina manger” on his program. But Stewart isn’t the only person mocking the idea of the War on Christmas and attacking those who dare to raise the subject. MSNBC washout and Current TV host Cenk Ugyur lashed out at Bill O’Reilly, jokingly declaring that the Fox News host “might burn in hell” for “calling a pagan tree a Christmas tree.” 

The Huffington Post’s Jeff Sorenson declared: “to a person who doesn't drink bleach and rub sand in his eyes for pleasure, this entire concept is completely insane.” MSNBC’s David Schoetz dismissed Fox’s coverage of the subject as “baseless segment after segment.” 

But at least one writer on the left believes in a “war on Christmas” – although religion has nothing to do with it. Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones complained that the real war on Christmas was “spurred by climate change.” (Apparently, climate change is somehow responsible for a drought killing Christmas trees.) 

But that’s just the December campaign. The secular left works the other 11 months too. 

The Complicity of the Media

While the Christmas battles tend to be about symbols and signs of Christianity, what drives the animus the rest of the year is outrage that Christians take their faith seriously and try to live by its precepts. Liberal journalists who loathe religious principles also seek to marginalize any expression of traditional Christian morality. 

The Culture and Media Institute chronicled the media-driven campaign to destroy and humiliate Christian-owned restaurant Chick-fil-A, sparked when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy spoke in favor of traditional marriage. 

Christians displaying their religious faith in public have also drawn journalistic derision. The Washington Post’s Lisa Miller derided black pastors opposed to gay marriage as “astro-turfers.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which claims to be “an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.” filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, complaining that the IRS allowed Catholic bishops and Billy Graham to get away with “blatantly and deliberately flaunting the electioneering restrictions.” The headline of the AP story on this subject blared: Atheist Group Sues over Religious Electioneering.”    

Journalists aren’t the only self-appointed media censors of Christianity; the entertainment industry has also actively attempted to muzzle Christians. ESPN pulled its sponsorship of an ad by NASCAR driver Blake Koch, because he linked to a Christian ministry on his website and a group that registers pro-life voters. The producers of American Idol warned singer Colton Dixon not to speak about his Christian faith on air. Dixon ignored the warnings and did so anyway, and explained his decision to Today.com

"When we first started the Twitter and Facebook stuff, they said beware of political and religious tweets. Just because it can turn off voters or whatever. But, you know, being a Christian is who I am. It is a part of me musically. It is what I want to do after the show -- go into Christian music." [...]

"I am not going to hide it, and I am not going to stray away from it just because I am on a TV show."

Christians like Dixon argue that they cannot be silent about their faith in public, since their faith is inextricably bound up with their public activities. To force devout Christians to be silent about their faith in public is to effectively drive them from the public square altogether.

Media Cheers on Government Suppression

But the media isn’t the only group with an aversion to God – government is also cracking down of public expression of Christianity. Georgetown University was literally asked to do just that during Obama’s May 2012 visit to the campus, covering over the name of Jesus at the request of the White House.

Government attempts to run roughshod over religious liberty (not to mention the fact that segments of the Democratic party sought to purge God from their platform) have apparently emboldened secularists to push for ever greater religious repression. The anti-religion crusaders at the Freedom From Religion Foundation requested that President Obama not use the Bible during his second inauguration ceremony. And the American Humanist Organization is pressuring newly elected members not to join the Congressional Prayer Caucus (which only Fox covered). 

The most glaring example of government’s disregard for Christianity is the Obama administration’s HHS mandate, which forces religious-affiliated institutions to pay insurance companies to provide contraception. Since the Catholic Church considers contraception to be a moral evil, the Obama administration is effectively forcing Catholic-affiliated institutions to violate their consciences, pay enormous fines, sell off their institutions, or shut down. The administration argues that the mandate does not concern actual churches, just religiously affiliated organizations like schools and hospitals. In effect, the government is determining where religious belief begins and ends and when its observance is legitimate.

And the media have given cover to the government’s overreach. 43 Catholic organizations sued the federal government in May 2012 over the HHS mandate – and the three broadcast networks responded by burying the story – only CBS and NBC even mentioned the lawsuit (NBC once, CBS twice). ABC completely buried the story.

State and local governments in America and abroad have increasingly tried to force Christians to swallow their objections to supporting gay relationships, winning media plaudits

Government efforts in foreign countries to repress public expression of Christianity have met with approval from the American media. Washington Post reporter Anthony Faioli lambasted a “small fringe” on the “far right” for daring to oppose a ban on public prayer in Britain. 

When German Prime Minister Angela Merkel declared in a Nov. 2012 speech that Christianity was the “most persecuted” sect in the world, the Associated Press’ recounting of Merkel’s comments featured the headline: “Merkel’s ‘Christian Persecution’ Comments Draw Ire.” 

The soft stick of tolerance wielded by government is proving increasingly repressive in its own right. 

God-Free School Zone

Education gets you more than reading, writing, and arithmetic – it also gives you a chance to be silenced if you have religious beliefs. Schools are actively playing the part of the secular police – or being pressured to do so by groups dedicated to establishing “freedom from religion” in America. 

Some schools have proven more that willing participants in the cause of Christianity-purging. The most ridiculous case was that of a first grader being forced to remove God from her poem about her two grandfathers who served in the Vietnam War.

LSU digitally removed Christian crosses from pictures shown on their website. LSU official Herb Vincent explained the school’s reasoning: “LSU Athletics attempts not to imply any particular religious or political message in any of its correspondence with fans. Thus the crosses were edited out of the photos.”

Other schools are being targeted by anti-religious groups. The ACLU has warned public schools not to participate in school prayer. And the Freedom from Religion Foundation has proven to be even more active opponents of Christianity in schools, targeting schools for prayer before football games.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has threatened multiple schools with traditions of prayer before games, by sending letters arguing that their actions are unconstitutional.

One Texas school tried to ban cheerleaders from publicly displaying banners which quote Scripture after being challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. A judge eventually tossed out that objection.

 Conclusion

Christmas is one of the few celebrations that most of America wholeheartedly embraces. It is a federal holiday, which practically everyone in America still celebrates.

So the media and secularizing influences have sought to drain Christmas of any religious significance, by purging anything which might be considered religious – from the name Christmas, to trees, to the horror of the Nativity scene. 

And their efforts have extended past the Christmas season – any time is a good time for purging the name of God from the public eye.