Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More on the Anti-Christmas Myth

From the Washington Post:

On the Christmas fight, the American Civil Liberties Union, the group most often cited as the enemy of traditionalists, says it has not filed a single case blocking Christmas displays this year and cites half a dozen instances over the past year in which it has fought on the side of more religious expression.

“This is the winter equivalent of those summer stories about shark attacks being on the increase,” says Barry Lynn, who heads the liberal group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The conservative groups, he said, “think they can make Christians feel like a besieged majority. It creates a Christian solidarity against all those who would oppress them: secularists in this season, gay and lesbians next month, abortion the next month.”

Quite right. It’s absolutely incredible how quickly this meme has taken hold, and it’s amusing to watch this religious right version of the telephone game. The speed at which situations get exaggerated out of all proportion is staggering. Pat Buchanan freaks out because a private store decides to use “happy holidays” in its advertising instead of “Merry Christmas” and calls it a “hate crime against Christians” and declares it all part of an anti-Christian conspiracy. Jerry Falwell brings up the case of a student forbidden to hand out candy canes with a religious message and blames it on the ACLU, not bothering to mention that the ACLU actually defended that student and won the case. And the next thing you know, you’ve got ignorant halfwits claiming that the ACLU is suing stores to stop them from saying Merry Christmas.

To top it off, the Worldnutdaily even complains that George Bush isn’t pro-Christmas enough because the White House website doesn’t mention Jesus specifically. And with all this hysteria from the religious right, for whom this is primarily an effort to raise funds from their credulous followers (send us money, we’ll fight the evil heathens), the reality is quite the opposite:

“It’s very convenient for Christians to say the culture has changed and they’ve lost power, but Christians have never been stronger politically,” said Marci A. Hamilton, who teaches at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and has written a book, “God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law.”

She said the threat to Christmas “is not secularization, it’s pluralization. The law doesn’t say Christian symbols have to be taken out of schools, only that it can’t only be Christian, it has to be pluralistic.”

ACLU President Nadine Strossen, similarly, said the conservative complaints are “like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling.” She adds that while there are “occasional violations in either direction” on church-state separation, “if anything, since 1985, the Supreme Court has become more supportive of government-sponsored religious exercises.”

The conservative groups agree there have been no recent legal cases limiting religious expression. Liberty Counsel’s Stanley said threats to Christmas have not jumped this year. “I think the response to those threats are increasing,” he said.

Or the outright invention of those threats.