One of the favorite holiday tricks of organizations trying to push religious influence out of American society is to loudly yell, “There is no war on Christmas! It’s a right-wing myth!”-- even as their movement wages that same war with Grinch-like zeal. For example, Rev. Barry Lynn, an attorney who heads Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), says he doesn’t see evidence of such a war.
He must not be looking very hard.
This year alone we’ve seen a Nativity scene kicked out of Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina due to a complaint by an aggressive legal organization similar to Rev. Lynn’s.
And just in the last few days, similar attempts to ban Christmas observances have occurred in schools in Bulloch County, Georgia and Frisco, Texas.
All the observances under attack are clearly protected by the First Amendment and by Supreme Court rulings.
That doesn’t matter to the anti-Christmas warriors. They bully institutions like the military, towns, and schools into censoring traditional Christian holiday expressions even when the law allows those expressions.
I know firsthand. As a constitutional attorney, I helped represent a third-grader in a large suburban public school who was told he could not put a religious message in the goodie bags he wanted to share with classmates at his “Winter Party.”
Other children were prohibited from giving each other pencils that said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.”
One child was ordered to stop giving away free tickets to a religious play and to throw away all remaining tickets.
Thankfully, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled the school violated the students’ rights, since private religious speech on public property is protected by the First Amendment.
This is not a rare case. Anti-faith lawyers use every Christmas season to wage their war on religious speech, counting on people to be silenced by fear and misinformation.
In fact, this year’s edition of "Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America" -- published by Liberty Institute and edited by a graduate of Harvard Law School -- found more than 1,200 verified acts of hostility to religious freedom. Many were part of the War on Christmas that only a hardcore denier could miss -- and provoked by like-minded organizations to Rev. Lynn’s.
Here are just some examples from recent years:
- The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) intimidated the state of Washington into banning all holiday decorations from the Capitol building.
- The FFRF bullied an Oklahoma school into banning all religious-themed Christmas songs from its “December Play.”
- A Houston-area school banned all religious items at Christmas (and students from saying the word “Jesus” at Easter!).
These are unconstitutional violations of religious liberties. And that’s the very real story of the very real War on Christmas. At its heart, it’s a War on Religious Freedom -- a war none of us should allow to succeed.
Kelly Shackelford, Esq., is President and CEO of Liberty Institute, the nation's largest legal organization dedicated solely to defending and restoring religious liberty in America. Email the Liberty Institute: firstname.lastname@example.org.