The slogan "God Bless America" will no longer be stamped on water bills in Lyon County, Nev. because a property owner complained that it is a violation of the separation of church and state, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal .

Lynn Arndell, district general manager for the Stagecoach General Improvement District, said the authority received a letter from property owner John Messina complaining that the phrase was offensive.

"You have irreparably violated my civil rights by using public resources to promote religion," wrote Messina, a self-described atheist who lives in San Jose, Calif., and owns property in Lyon County. "I am offended that Christians have used this tragedy from the World Trade Center to promote their own religion," he said.

Arndell said many of the residents of the small community were "irate" to hear the slogan had been forced off the bill. "A lot of our customers just shook their heads when they heard about it," she said.

Axing the Big Red Guy

A Minnesota man’s 15-year tradition of dressing up as Santa, singing carols, hearing gift requests and handing out presents to pre-school kids in a Head Start program was cut short this year because kids from different cultures might be made to feel uncomfortable by him, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Jacqueline Cross, director of the Anoka/Washington County Head Start program, said the program doesn’t want to force "cultural traditions" down the multi-cultural kids’ throats.

"We honor the heritage of all children and families in our program by realizing that it is the choice of each family to introduce and develop cultural traditions and rituals for their own family, as they feel appropriate," she said. "Each family's cultures and traditions may or may not include the celebration of all scheduled holidays."

Spooner said he doesn't understand the anti-Santa sentiments.

"Santa always has been universal," he said. "He's pretty secular. There are a lot of non-Christians that have Santa. I enjoy being Santa. You can step out of reality and go into fantasy. At times, I think we overlook the fantasy. I think that everybody should be taught to respect everybody else's religion. There's certainly no harm in that, and I don't think there's any harm in having a fantasy elf passing out gifts either."

‘Multicultural’ Tree Chopped

Legislators in Canada have backed away from their decade-old tradition of calling the Christmas tree at the Manitoba Legislature a "multicultural tree" because residents there — described as fed up — flooded members’ offices with email and letters, reports the Winnipeg Sun.

The name was changed quietly about 12 years ago, but few noticed. And they didn’t seem to notice when the province took "Christmas" out of their official greetings to Manitobans in 1996.

This year, people finally fought back and Premier Gary Doer scrapped the "multicultural tree" name and dubbed it a Christmas tree again.

No Elves Here, Either

An official with the Arizona Attorney General’s office issued a memo banning the display of Santa Claus from employee work areas and other locations open to the general public, reports the Catholic League .

Gale Garriott, chief counsel of the Agency Counsel Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s office, issued a memo Nov. 28 stating, "reasonable decorations that are respectful of the views of others" are permissible, but "nativity scenes, crosses, Stars of David, Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, Santa Claus related items, and other similar items that may be offensive to some of our employees or the public" are considered "unacceptable items."

As a result of Garriott’s decision, workers have now sarcastically displayed Holiday Greetings from the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot.

Attorney General Janet Napolitano defended the ban by saying that her office constitutes a "people’s lobby" that does not allow displays that might offend those of various "faiths and cultures."

Firing Words

The mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla. fired the police chief there for describing, during a training session, the antics of a black prisoner resisting arrest as being like an orangutan, reports the Associated Press.

Mayor Rick Baker fired police chief Mack Vines following public outcry over the comment.

Vines made the remark during a police roll call in which he was explaining recent disciplinary decisions. He was referring to a recent case in which officers dragged a black man out of the window of a pickup truck.

During the arrest, the man entangled his feet and legs around his vehicle's steering column. An officer used knee strikes to the man's torso to get him out of the vehicle.

Vines said he described the man was "resisting significantly to the point of almost like an orangutan."

Willie Smiley, the suspect Vines was referring to in his remarks, said he was satisfied with the chief's dismissal, adding, "Hopefully it makes a difference in our community."

Smiley is out on jail on $12,250 bond, but still faces drug and resisting arrest charges.

Heroes of the Week

A husband and wife working in the food service department at an elementary school in Canandaigua, N.Y. resigned their positions in protest after the wife was told she couldn’t wish the children she worked with Merry Christmas, reports the Daily Messenger.

Sandy Simmons, a cafeteria monitor, quit after nine years in the district. Her husband, Francis Simmons, handed in his resignation two days later.

"We both felt it violated freedom of speech," Francis said. Quitting "was just something we had to do."

The Simmonses made their decision after a principal's memo distributed earlier this month asked teachers and staff to use the word "holiday" rather than "Christmas."

From the Central Servers:

Michael S. writes:

Oregon should send their National Guard out with Flagpoles instead of M-16's to fight the Taliban. In fact the legislators should go in their place!

Ray B. wonders:

With regard to the Inglis, Fla. story: why is it okay to ban Christ and Christian symbols, yet an impeachable offense to attempt to ban Satan?

Jordan M. writes:

I'm a Messianic Jew, and wish to remind you that the U.S. Constitution dictates a separation of church and state. This was input by our Christian Founding Fathers, who had experienced interdenominational fights in the past, and did not want America dominated by state religion.

It is illegal for any school, government entity, state, or Federal body to celebrate Xmas, period. Why can't you get it? It is illegal, as far as I'm concerned, to say "In God We Trust." It is illegal to have Xmas displays at public buildings, to officially pray in Congress or for any official body to support one religion over another (such at school). 

You think you're so smart making fun of "Grinches" but are you trying to willfully destroy the foundation of our country?

Patrick T. writes:

As a former student of Oregon City High School I find it ridiculous (to put it mildly) that there are actually people out there that would wish to ignore the historical significance of Oregon City as the end of the Oregon Trail and the pioneers that forged it. People need to wake up to the historical facts. What is a pioneer supposed to have carried, a rain gauge?

Tracy D. in San Antonio, Tex. writes:

My company now has a "Winter Extravaganza" celebration rather than a Christmas party. So we have now gone from a Christian celebration to a Pagan/Druid winter solstice party????? This is getting ridiculous!

Richard writes in response to Jeff. G.:

Thank you. As a Christian, a U.S. citizen and currently a teacher in the heart of mainland China, I very much appreciated your comment.

For me there is a sense of irony this Christmas season: While in the U.S. narrow-minded whiners with too much time on their hands attempt to destroy the most benign objects of a national holiday which celebrates love and peace, the government run school here in China is throwing two large Christmas parties for the teachers. All of my beautiful students at this middle school are excited about giving me Christmas cards and gifts. In (communist) China, Christmas is called Christmas, not winter holiday, or some other PC euphemism. It is celebrated on this state run campus out of respect for the foreign teachers. No one takes offense at my Christian faith. Celebrating love is not considered proselytizing.

Vito F. in Pittsburgh, Penn. writes:

I am a self-defined liberal, and I do have problems with political correctness. I would define political correctness as doing or saying something not because it makes sense, but because it seems the least offensive and most mainstream at the time (not attacking minorities, etc. even when it is justified). This is why I do not include many of the civil liberties issues you often criticize under the "PC" definition.

My point is that I do reject the sort of liberal fascism that often goes on, when outside ideas are rejected and not even willing to be discussed. But as we all have said TIMES HAVE CHANGED.

Political correctness in the wake of Sept. 11 is CONSERVATIVE FASCISM. We have an Attorney General who bluntly says that anyone who questions the policies of the administration is aiding the terrorists. We also have the new story about the Sacramento Bee publisher being booed off the stage for mentioning civil liberties and questioning our administration. This is frightening. What could be more politically correct than guilting America into following 100 percent lock step with the administration?

This is political correctness at its worst, and I suggest that you attack the kind of restraint that is being put on free ideas for the sake of being "sensitive" and "united" in this time of "war" (note the quotes). If you reject your new role, it is only more apparent your column is simply anti-liberal, not anti-PC. Your credibility dissolves on anything but the most conservative news sources.

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