In the month of December, emotions over Christmas, public crèches, “Happy Holidays” and all the trimmings can run high. This is a compilation of issues to keep you up to date on the “War on Christmas,” with dispatches from the battleground formerly known as the month of December.
No nativity for Florida capitol building
A church that has erected a nativity at the Florida capitol building for last two years says this year they will not display a manger — in the interest of harmony.
“My hope is that the Christ in Christmas is louder than a wood display and some figurines,’’ Pam Olsen, a spokesperson for the International House of Prayer in Tallahassee, told The Miami Herald. “The racial tensions and mass murders, the shootings at the Planned Parenthood and in California – something is very wrong in our country. We need to step back and say we need to stop. Let the sound of the Christ Child bring hope, joy and peace instead of dissension.”
The church’s nativity prompted other groups to apply for December displays and resulted in a “Seinfeld”-inspired Festivus Pole (courtesy of American Atheists), a winter solstice banner (from the Freedom From Religion Foundation) and a diorama featuring the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a noodle-y character who wears a colander on his meatball head and is beloved of some skeptics and other non-believers.
You want zombies in your nativity? That’ll be $500
An Ohio man who erected a “zombie nativity” in his yard last year before town officials forced him to take it down, is back with an even bigger display this year — at the cost of $500 a day in city fines.
Jason Dixon, who manages a Halloween haunted house, was denied a permit for his nativity — complete with a blue, glow-eyed undead baby Jesus — by Sycamore Township officials because, they said, it would take up 35 percent of his lawn — to much to comply with town ordinances.
Dixon put up the manger anyway and is facing fines of $500 per day — that’s $9,000 between now and Dec. 25.
But no worries — Dixon has launched an Indiegogo campaign to defray the costs.
Santa says, ‘Skip church’ in new billboards
New billboards featuring a smiling Santa suggesting people “skip church” appeared this week, courtesy of American Atheists.
The smiling Santa suggests people “be good for goodness sake” and then really throws out the read meat with a big “Happy Holidays.”
The billboards went up in Winston-Salem, N.C. and Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is often known as the “evangelical Vatican” for the number of Christian ministries and churches based there. It was also the site of a Planned Parenthood shooting, in which the shooter many have had religious motivations — police are still investigating.
Last year, American Atheists’ billboards featured a little girl writing a letter to Santa that said, “All I want for Christmas is to skip church.”
“This year, Santa wrote back,” Silverman said.
‘Call that a Christmas tree and I quit. On second thought . . .
A New Jersey councilwoman decided to rescind her resignation over the name of the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony.
Charlene Storey, a Roselle Park, N.J. council-woman-at-large was upset town officials approved a “Christmas Tree Lighting” ceremony instead of a “Tree Lighting Ceremony” and handed in her resignation.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to be part of a council that is exclusionary or to work with a Mayor who is such,” Storey, a cradle Catholic who is now a non-believer said. The name “cuts non-Christians out of the loop and favors one religion.”
The mayor and the councilwoman sat down for a tete-a-tete and she took back her resignation. The annual December event will continue as a “Christmas Tree Lighting.”
But wait until next year – “She (Storey) said she hopes that (she) can set up an application process so religious and non-religious groups can submit proposals for additions to the event and display,” NJ.com reported.
‘Snaketivity’: And you thought ‘Zombie Nativity’ was bad
A group of Michigan Satanists (nota bene: NOT Santaists) have announced their intention to stage their own “live nativity,” — with snakes.
Their slithering display is intended as a counterpoint to another live nativity — this one with homo sapiens — sponsored by Republican presidential candidate (and evangelical Christian) Ted Cruz. Both will be staged on the lawn in front of the Michigan state capitol in Lansing.
The point? Not to proselytize for Satan, but for religious liberty, the Satanists say. “We refuse to allow one religious perspective (to) dominate the discourse,” a leader of the Satanists said in a press release.
There seems to be a run on alternative nativities this far ahead of Christmas. A pair of young Arizonans — an atheist and a Catholic — are launching a “Zombie Nativity” toy featuring a holy family with exposed brains.
No ‘Christmas’ trees in New Hampshire
A Marlboro, N.H. man was told he had to remove the word ‘Christmas’ from fliers he was sending home with local schoolchildren to remind them and their parents of the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony.
John F. Fletcher, an American Legion member who also plays Santa at the ceremony, said he used Wite-Out to cover ‘Christmas’ on each of 250 fliers, which the school district then sent home with students.
“Our School District celebrates the religious freedom that our students enjoy,” a press release issued by the local school district says. “However, the Establishment Clause of our Constitution forbids a public school district from aiding, promoting or endorsing a particular religion or religious activity.”
But Charles Haynes, vice-president of the Newseum Institute and its Religious Freedom Center, says the school district has erred too far on the side of caution. Using the word “Christmas” is not an establishment of religion, he says, but just a description.
“This is an example of how poorly some school leaders are educated about the First Amendment,” he wrote to RNS in an email. “Absurd overreactions like this give ‘separation of church and state’ a bad name. I expect to see this on many fundraising letters in the coming months!”
Fletcher isn’t backing down. “It’s easier to offend the majority, so you don’t offend the minority,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Bill of Rights Nativity
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which describes itself as a First Amendment watchdog group and frequently challenges public displays of religion, is marking the 20th anniversary of its secular seasonal display in Wisconsin’s state capitol.
Featuring three cartoon Founding Fathers and the Statue of Liberty gathered around a manger holding — you guessed it — the Bill of Rights — the display reads, “Happy Winter Solstice. At this Season of the Winter Solstice, we honor reason and the Bill of Rights (adopted Dec. 15, 1791).”
A smaller signs reads, “Thou shalt not steal, please.” In previous years, FFRF “nativities” have included images of Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Emma Goldman, Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson. FFRF sets up its secular nativity in response to a nativity set up in the capitol’s rotunda by a Christian group each year.
Yes, Virginia, there ARE religious Christmas stamps at the post office
The rumor that United State Postal Service will not sell religious-themed holiday Christmas stamps next year is just that — a rumor.
It seems that since September, a story has been floating around on social media claiming that someone went to buy the religiously-themed Christmas stamps the post office has offered for years and was told by the clerk to stock up — after 2015 the USPS would only issue secular holiday stamps. And who’s to blame? President Barack Obama.
The story is a rumor on all fronts. USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said the post office does have religious-y Christmas stamps for sale and has no plans to eliminate them. However, he said there would be no new religious stamps this Christmas because there is such a huge backlog of older ones — a half-billion of them.
“That’s more than twice sold during a typical [h]oliday season,” Saunders said.
— by Kimberly Winston | RNS