Church Members Dress Like Jesus to Support Christmas

Members of a church in Kansas City, Ks., are protesting the secularization of Christmas by dressing like Jesus at their jobs, malls and restaurants.

Pastor Kelly Lohrke advised parishioners of the Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship to wear at minimum a crown of thorns and a sash or robe during the week leading up to Christmas.

“A lot of businesses and people are saying that they have to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Season’s Greetings,'” church receptionist Chelsea Johnston told FOXNews.com. “They’re not allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ It makes us upset because that is the holiday and it goes against our freedom of speech.”

The 600-member church posted videos on YouTube of congregants wearing Christ-like garb in public — which they say has led other churches across the country to consider similar demonstrations.

Johnston said some members have gotten more elaborate with their costumes, growing beards and wearing their hair long.

The reactions have been mostly positive, according to Johnston, but the protesters have gotten their share of stares from passersby.

“We have had some really strange looks – people who are like, Why are you guys doing that?” she said. “I haven’t heard any reports of people being offended. … We’ve gotten pretty good responses.”

Man Complains of 4th Grader Candy Cane as Religious Symbol

A school’s candy cane decoration is drawing criticism from a man who says it constitutes a religious display.

Fourth-grade student Jenna Baginski and her father, Tom, dressed up pillars at Charlotte Central School’s entrance in red & white stripes. So, local resident William Gerson wrote a letter of protest.

He called the decorations candy canes, saying they’re associated with Christmas and therefore a religious symbol unfit for public display.

But School Board members agreed at a recent meeting that candy canes are a secular symbol and don’t represent an improper government endorsement of religion.

Woman Claims She Was Fired for Saying “Merry Christmas”

A Christian woman claims she was fired from her job because she greeted callers with “Merry Christmas,” but the vacation rental company says it’s no Scrooge and the woman is just a disgruntled employee.

Tonia Thomas, 35, said she refused to say “Happy Holidays” and was fired, even after offering to use the company’s non-holiday greeting. The Panama City woman filed a federal complaint that accuses the company of religious discrimination. She is seeking compensation for lost wages.

“I hold my core Christian values to a high standard and I absolutely refuse to give in on the basis of values. All I wanted was to be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or to acknowledge no holidays,” she said Tuesday. “As a Christian, I don’t recognize any other holidays.”

Thomas said she is Baptist.

Her former employer, Counts-Oakes Resorts Properties Inc., said she wasn’t fired for saying “Merry Christmas,” but would not elaborate.

“We are a Christian company and we celebrate Christmas,” said Andy Phillips, the company’s president. Thomas is “a disgruntled employee,” presenting a one-sided version of what happened when she was fired Dec. 10, Phillips said.

Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based legal group that advocates for people discriminated against because of their religion, is representing Thomas before the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Their complaint also accuses the company of harassing and taunting Thomas after she was fired by calling the police to watch her pack her belongs and leave.

Thomas could have hard time winning the case, said G. Thomas Harper, a Jacksonville-based labor attorney who writes a newsletter on Florida employment law.

“I wouldn’t think an employee has the right to insist (on saying Merry Christmas) unless that really is a tenet of their faith. She would have to make a strong case that was part of her beliefs, if not, it becomes insubordination,” he said.

Thomas has found another job, but she makes less than the $10.50 an hour she earned with the rental company. She said the trauma of being fired and the pay cut has made for a tough holiday season for herself, her husband and their 6-year-old son.

Harper said when it comes to holiday greetings, the smartest choice might be ignoring the season.

“The best option is just not to say anything,” he said.

Utah Towns Accused of Lacking Christian Courage

A group of residents is upset after two central Utah cities denied their recent requests to donate and display nativity scenes on city property.
Members of the group recently attended city council meetings in Salina and Richfield to petition the cities to accept the donation and put up the nativity scenes, which would be done as part of an Eagle Scout project. But in both cases, there appears to be no room at the inn.

“We have presented this to the cities and told them not to be afraid to display them, so we are disappointed that they have not accepted,” said Salina resident Elaine Bonavita, who is the chairman of the Right to Vote Committee which has been actively pushing for the nativity scenes to be displayed.

Both city councils unanimously chose not to put up the nativity scenes for various reasons, but mostly based on advice from a city attorney.

Salina allowed a small nativity scene to be displayed by residents at the city building last year, but this year they don’t think it can be done.

“Our decorations are already set up at our building, and we decided this year was not the time to do it since we really have no room for it under the circumstances,” Salina Mayor Jim Reynolds said. “So we went ahead and said no for that reason and for the fact that our attorney advised against putting one up, and nobody questioned that.”

But members of the Right to Vote Committee say they aren’t buying the small amount of space argument. To them it has more to do with the backbones of the city leaders.
“It’s a lack of Christian courage,” Bonavita said. “Other towns have them up in public places. Why can’t Richfield and Salina? It is a lack of Christian courage.”

In the petition given to the cities, the group lists Lynch v. Donnelly, a U.S. Supreme Court case, which they feel shows the constitutionality of publicly sponsored Christmas displays. They also list a national public interest firm which they claim is willing to represent any city pro bono if called upon to help.

Richfield Mayor Brad Ramsay said his city hasn’t allowed nativity scenes in the past, and the city respects the legal advice of its attorney.

“We want to stay out of mixing church and state and always felt like a nativity scene is a personal expression of Christmas and not one the city wants to impose on anyone,” he said.

Ramsay also said that there are several nice nativity scenes throughout the city at private residences or businesses.

Bonavita said the nativity committee plans to seek out other cities in hopes of putting the nativity scenes on display.

“Christmas has been important to me all my life,” Bonavita said. “The world has commercialized it, so every year I try to do something special for Jesus Christ. This is a constitutional right we have.”

Churches Fight Back Against Nativity Thefts

Dozens of churches across the country have begun to fight back against pranksters by attaching GPS devices onto the baby Jesus in their nativity displays.

“It just upset me to think that anybody would steal anything in the first place, much less the baby Jesus from a nativity scene,” said Victory Christian Fellowship nativity scene organizer Carolyn Nicholson.

However, that’s what happened last Christmas to the nativity scene that she sets up every year at the church in Paltaka.

“I would hate to have to pay the price for whomever did that,” Nicholson said.

The church has since replaced their baby Jesus, but it hasn’t yet gone as far as some churches around the country that are placing a GPS tracking device on the Christ child in case another heavenly heist is attempted.

“It’s sad. It’s sad. I can’t believe it but I know it’s true,” Nicholson said.

Last year, before Victory Christian Fellowship replaced the baby Jesus permanently it used a baby doll as a temporary fill in. The organizer said she feels a little awkward about having two baby Jesuses around.

Still, she said she hopes they can keep them around. The idea of using GPS did intrigue the church’s pastor.

“Well, I do use a GPS myself and they do come in handy. So, it might not be a bad idea,” said Pastor Ben Tippett.

Despite the rash of Jesus thefts, one has to speculate that if any child could forgive his kidnappers it would be the baby Jesus.

“Well, it’d been better if they maybe asked them into their heart, instead of coming and taking him,” Tippett said.

Some churches have also been putting in security cameras as an alternative to watch what’s going on with the baby Jesus in their nativity scenes.