Catholics Post Lincoln Tunnel Billbord to Counter Atheist Campaign

The latest salvo in the Christmas wars has landed, blocks from the New York entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has responded to a Christmas-debunking billboard sponsored by American Atheists just outside the New Jersey entrance of the tunnel by erecting one of their own at the other end.

The new billboard reads “You Know It’s Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus.” It shows a warm nativity scene, with Joseph and Mary staring lovingly down at a beatific infant Jesus lying in straw in a splash of light. “Merry Christmas from the Catholic League” appears in smaller type to the right of the image and above a Catholic League insignia.

The billboard promoting atheism went up last week along I-495. It reads “You know it’s a myth. This season, celebrate reason!”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a lay civil rights organization that receives no church financing, said that an anonymous donor in Manhattan came up with the money — about $18,500 — to buy the 26-by-24-foot billboard at Dyer Avenue and 31st Street for about a month. It went up Monday afternoon.

Mr. Donohue said the billboard was not intended as “a statement against atheists or agnostics, most of whom are good people,” but as a repudiation to “aggressive, militant atheism” that he believes is growing increasingly prevalent in America.

Joseph Zwilling, the director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said that while the Catholic League does not speak on the Archdiocese’s behalf, he thought the billboard “articulated the reality that Catholics and Christians believe in Jesus.”

“Jesus historically lived, there’s no doubt about that,” Mr. Zwilling added. “He was a real person in a real time, and for Catholics and Christians we believe he was the son of God.”

Mr. Donohue said he thought American Atheists singled out Christianity over other religions, noting that their billboard was “not attacking Ramadan.”

“They believe in nothing, they stand for nothing, and they think we came from nothing,” he said, “so they have to crib off Christians.”

This is a blog post from the New York Times. The original story of the Atheist billbord was front page news in the NYT.

Senator Refuses to Participate in Christmas Parade With Christmas Removed

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe announced Tuesday that he will not participate in Tulsa’s Parade of Lights until organizers put “”Christ” back in the event’s title.

“Last year, the forces of political correctness removed the word ‘Christmas’ and replaced it with ‘Holiday’ instead,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

“I am deeply saddened and disappointed by this change.”

Inhofe, who served as Tulsa’s mayor from 1978 to 1984, said he had participated in the parade annually, riding horseback as his children and grandchildren watched.

“I did not do so last year, because I’m not going to ride in a Christmas parade that doesn’t recognize Christmas,” he said.

“I am hopeful that the good people of Tulsa and the city’s leadership will demand a correction to this shameful attempt to take Christ, the true reason for our celebration, out of the parade’s title. Until the parade is again named the Christmas Parade of Lights, I will not participate.”

Scheduled this year on Dec. 11, the downtown parade dates back more than 70 years

Read more from Tulsa World

Philly Removes Christmas From Village

It is known as a Christmas festival. For some time the event, made to look like a German Christmas Market, has been known as a “Christmas Village”. It has Christmas trees, Christmas lights and Christmas decor for sale of all kinds. But now it will be known as a “Holiday” Village because the city says there were complaints from workers and residents. “As a city of great diversity, one shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a difference of views when it comes to symbols and words,” says city spokesman Mark McDonald.

Initial news reports did not state who the complainers were. But as the story has gathered steam, so too has the heart-wrenching excuses of the name-less, face-less complainers who, even though this event is not new, felt this year was the time to complain to the City.

After all, there are also Jewish and Muslim vendors among the wooden booths that make up the Philadelphia replica of the traditional German Christmas Village, which officially opened Nov. 25.
There was also a story that reached Negrin about a little Jewish girl walking with her father who asked, Negrin said, “Dad, don’t we get a village?”

Philly is awash in complainers now. And from what we can see most want it called “Christmas” instead of “Holiday”.

UK Grocer Serves Controversy Selling Reindeer Steaks

A UK grocer is underfire for selling wild reindeer meat in its markets this holiday season. The Lidl stores have been accused of “destroying the magic of Christmas by selling dead reindeer” by the Vegetarians International Voice for Animals (VIVA!). The animal-rights group says that the reindeer are treated cruelly. They say that wild reindeer are herded with snow mobiles and helicopters, which causes the animals undue stress. They also say that 70 percent of the reindeer killed are calfs. The reindeer are sourced from Siberia, where Polar Research journal reported a decline in wild populations.

The Daily Mail reports that Lidl is the first of several grocery store chains that will offer reindeer meat during the holiday season. Lidl has defended their sales, by pointing out that the wild animals are better off in their natural habitat than livestock that’s raised in captivity. A Lidl further pointed out that the reindeer eat local aromatic herbs and grasses. The reindeer meat is served under the grocery store’s premium Deluxe label.

Venison has recently gained gourmet popularity, not only for it’s wild flavor, but also because of its lower fat content compared to beef. According to the Deer Farmer’s Information Network, venison is only 3.3 percent fat, while ground beef is 9.76 percent fat and chicken breast is 3.42 percent.

Planned Parenthood Selling Gift Certificates to Promote ‘Choice on Earth’

Alaska’s largest provider of abortions will be selling holiday gift certificates good for services including abortion in a fundraising effort during a Jewish bazaar on Sunday.

The certificates are being sold in Anchorage as part of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest’s effort to raise funds for their organization.

Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery said PPGNW’s efforts are meant to mock those whose faith dictates that abortion is morally wrong.

“They have a true disrespect and disdain for those who have a true faith,” he commented. Minnery believes their holiday efforts are a not-so subtle “poke in the eye” of pro-life advocates.

The Alaskan fundraiser is the latest effort in Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Christmas fundraising endeavors.

In the past, PPFA sold “Choice on Earth”-themed Christmas cards.

The cards featured a variety of designs, including two doves (one white, one gold) holding olive branches.

Other cards stated “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Planning for the New Year” while featuring white silhouettes of a parent and child on a pink background.

“Planned Parenthood has enjoyed poking Christians with sticks at Christmas, mocking the birth of Jesus with their unique holiday greeting cards,” Jill Sedlak, executive director of America’s Life League’s STOPP International, said, according to Lifenews.com.

Minnery, meanwhile, commented, “They’re riding on the coat tails of the sacred story.”

Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt had dismissed such criticisms in the past, saying their greeting cards were popular among America’s pro-choice majority for almost a decade and that they send “an inclusive seasonal message for people of all faiths.”

However, the controversy lies in the origin of the phrase “Choice on Earth.” It is a spinoff of the biblical proclamation of “Peace on Earth” when angels announced the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Pro-life groups are outraged over the use of the word “choice” to link abortion to a day which celebrates the birth of Jesus.

In 2007, PPFA seemed to have dropped the promotion of its holiday cards.

PPFA President Cecile Richards sent a 2007 holiday e-mail stating, “As I reflect upon the past year and consider the next, I can’t help but feel a sense of good will. Good will towards the women, men and families that we serve. Good will toward you, my Planned Parenthood family.”

There was no mention of the card.

However, the certificates have continued with other holiday gifts, including summer releases of “I Had an Abortion” t-shirts and holiday PPFA-themed gift certificates. An advertisement for a vasectomy certificate states, “Give the gift that stops giving … a gift certificate for a holiday vasectomy at Planned Parenthood.”

Minnery said it is offensive that Planned Parenthood would use the Christmas season to propagate the message of abortion and says it is misguided if it believes that the right to choose an abortion is as sacred to as the Christmas story.

PPGNW will be one of 35 non-organizations selling their wares with prices ranging from $5 to $30 during the Dec. 5 market, sponsored by the Congregation Beth Sholom Jewish Synagogue.

The synagogue is a recognized member of the Union for Reform Judaism. In a statement, URJ recognizes abortion as an acceptable choice in the event of rape, incest, or genetic testing that determines that a child will be born with a life-threatening disease or severe disability.

It also recognizes abortion to be a woman’s choice and states that an abortion can be performed “even as late as the moment before the head of a baby emerges from the birth canal.”

PPGNW operates five clinics in Alaska as well as clinics in Idaho and Washington. It is currently challenging an Alaskan state law set to take effect Dec. 14 mandating parent notification and approval of abortions for youths 17 and younger.

Stephanie Samuel
Christian Post Reporter

From Christian Post.com

BC Schools Won’t Even Consider Christmas

Kamloops-Thompson (British Columbia) school trustees have no intention of stirring up the same controversy as their Chilliwack counterparts by renaming the upcoming December holiday Christmas break.

“We’re so multicultural. It’s not Christmas to some people,” vice chairwoman Diane Dosch said Sunday.

The School District 73 website refers to the holiday as winter break. Dosch and other trustees interviewed by The Daily News say this has been the case for as long as they can remember.

The religiously neutral title is also used on the Ministry of Education calendar.

Trustees in Chilliwack are in hot water because they voted to call the break Christmas holidays. The Chilliwack Teachers Federation and the Parent Advisory Council dislike the decision, saying it’s important to be sensitive to various beliefs within the community.

Trustees in Kamloops agree. Dosch said she doesn’t bemoan Chilliwack trustees for trying something different, but has no intention of rocking the boat here.

“It doesn’t need to be discussed,” she said. “That’s just calling for trouble when you don’t need it.”

Trustee Kathleen Karpuk said Chilliwack has a prominent Christian community, which is perhaps why trustees there felt the need for a change.

But Kamloops is a diverse city and she believes it’s important to respect all cultures, said Karpuk.

Trustee Denise Harper said renaming the holiday Christmas break might delight Christians but it would likely offend others who believe religion has no place in schools.

Holidays in the school calendar are named after the seasons in which they occur. Chairman Ken Christian said it’s been that way for the 18 years he’s been on the school board.

“It’s not to be a connotation about religion one way or the other. It’s what those breaks are named after,” he said.

Winter break begins Dec. 20.

From Kamloops News.ca

Fox News Blows School Christmas Color Controversy Out of Context

Fox News rushed to report a Florida elementary school that had sent a letter dictating what could and could not be used in holiday celebrations in the coming weeks:

A school in Florida has not only banned Christmas – but everything associated with the Christian holiday.

Teachers at Heathrow Elementary School have been ordered to banish images of Santa Claus from classrooms – along with traditional Christmas colors like red and green.

“You can’t use red and green,” one outraged parent told WESH. “It’s ridiculous.”

The parent, who serves as a volunteer room mother, said she was recently given a list of guidelines that listed the holiday restrictions.

She said the basic theme of the letter was, “We don’t want to offend anyone who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus or the Christian beliefs.”

It turns out the Fox reporter didn’t contact the school or verify the claims being made. Here is the text of a letter later sent by the school:

The school district of Seminole County would like to correct the recent news stories regarding the “ban of red and green” at Heathrow Elementary School in Lake Mary, Florida. The banning of red and green is simply not true.

Out of respect for their diverse community, the common practice for December classroom activities has been a winter theme which can include red, green, or any color.

Unfortunately the principal of the school was not contacted by any parent prior to the news stories. Parents are encouraged to contact the principal with any questions relating to school policies and practices.

Regina Murray Klaers
Public Information Officer
Seminole County Public Schools

Christmas Tree Event a Terrorist Target

Undercover agents in a sting operation arrested a Somali-born teenager just as he tried blowing up a van full of what he believed were explosives at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, federal authorities said.

The bomb was a fake supplied by the agents and the public was never in danger, authorities said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested at 5:40 p.m. Friday just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would set off the blast but instead brought federal agents and police swooping down on him.

Yelling “Allahu Akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great!” — Mohamud tried to kick agents and police after he was taken into custody, according to prosecutors.

“The threat was very real,” said Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,”

The FBI affidavit that outlined the investigation alleges that Mohamud planned the attack for months, at one point mailing bomb components to FBI operatives, whom he believed were assembling the device.

It said Mohamud was warned several times about the seriousness of his plan, that women and children could be killed, and that he could back out, but he told agents: “Since I was 15 I thought about all this;” and “It’s gonna be a fireworks show … a spectacular show.”

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Corvallis, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. A court appearance was set for Monday. Few details were available about him late Friday.

Authorities allowed the plot to proceed in order to build up enough evidence to charge the suspect with attempt.

Officials didn’t say if the suspect had any ties to other Americans recently accused of trying to carry out attacks on U.S. soil, including alleged efforts in May by a Pakistan-born man to set off a car bomb near Times Square or another Pakistan-born Virginia resident accused last month in a bomb plot to kill commuters.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton released federal court documents to The Associated Press and the Oregonian newspaper that show the sting operation began in June after an undercover agent learned that Mohamud had been in regular e-mail contact with an “unindicted associate” in Pakistan’s northwest, a frontier region where al-Qaida and Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents are strong.

The two used coded language in which the FBI believes Mohamud discussed traveling to Pakistan to prepare for “violent jihad,” the documents said.

In June an FBI agent contacted Mohamud “under the guise of being affiliated with” the suspected terrorist. But the documents did not say how federal officials first became aware of Mohamud.

An undercover agent met with him a month later in Portland, where they “discussed violent jihad,” according to the court documents.

As a trial run, Mohamud and agents detonated a bomb in Oregon’s backcounry earlier this month.

“This defendant’s chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people — even here in Oregon — who are determined to kill Americans,” Holton said.

Friday, an agent and Mohamud drove to downtown Portland in a white van that carried six 55-gallon drums with detonation cords and plastic caps, but all of them were inert, the complaint states.

They left the van near the downtown ceremony site and went to a train station where Mohamud was given a cell phone that he thought would blow up the vehicle, according to the complaint. There was no detonation when he dialed, and when he tried again federal agents and police made their move.

Omar Jamal, first secretary to the Somali mission to the United Nations, condemned the plot and urged Somalis to cooperate with police and the FBI.

“Talk to them and tell them what you know so we can all be safe,” Jamal said.

Somalia Foreign Minister Mohamed Abullahi Omaar said his government is “ready and willing” to offer the U.S. any assistance it may need to prevent similar attempts.

“It is a tragic for the family of the young man, it is a tragic for the people he tried to harm. It is a tragic for all of us here,” said Omaar, whose government is holed up in a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu, while much of the country’s southern and central regions are ruled by Islamist insurgents.

“Mohamud’s attempt is neither representative nor an example of Somalis. Somalis are peace loving people.”

Tens of thousands of Somalis have resettled in the United States since their country plunged into lawlessness in 1991.

U.S. authorities have been struggling against a recent spate of terror plans by U.S. citizens or residents.

In the Times Square plot, Faisal Shazhad allegedly tried to set off a car bomb at a bustling street corner. U.S. authorities had no intelligence about Shahzad’s plot until the smoking car turned up in Manhattan.

Late last month, Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Virginia was arrested and accused of casing Washington-area subway stations in what he thought was an al-Qaida plot to bomb and kill commuters. Similar to the Portland sting, the bombing plot was a ruse conducted over the past six months by federal officials.

And a year ago in another federal sting, 19-year-old Jordanian Hosam Smadi was arrested on charges he intended to bomb a downtown Dallas skyscraper. Federal officials said he placed what he believed was a car bomb outside the building but was instead a decoy device given him by an undercover FBI agent.

AFA Wins; Calls Off Boycott of Dick’s Sporting Goods

“Christmas” will dominate ads from Dick’s Sporting Goods. Gone is the nasty word “Holiday”. Let the party begin.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has told AFA that “Christmas” will become a huge part of their advertising beginning November 28.

According to Vice-Chairman Bill Columbo, in a phone conference with AFA today, “We have made significant changes from past years, when ‘holiday’ was the dominant theme of our advertising.” Mr. Columbo told AFA that these changes were already in the works prior to AFA’s boycott announcement. He apologized for not returning AFA’s phone calls and letters earlier to convey this message.

Dick’s issued a statement to AFA and its pro-Christmas supporters, outlining their plans to incorporate “Christmas” in their advertising:

– Beginning November 28, Sunday newspaper inserts will read “Christmas 2010.” It will continue each Sunday through Christmas.

– Dick’s website will display the Christmas message prior to the first insert (next week) in time for Thanksgiving day.

– Television commercials running after November 28th will also refer to Christmas season.

As a result of Dick’s response, AFA is cancelling the boycott.

It is amazing to see the culture change that is occurring inside corporate board rooms. All across America, companies are coming to realize they should include Christ and Christmas in their advertising

Now that the American Family Association has won this battle, it can focus on these retailers who STILL refuse to use the word Christmas in their marketing campaigns this holiday…er, Christmas…season:

Barnes & Noble
CVS Pharmacy
Office Depot
Radio Shack
Staples
SUPERVALU
Victoria’s Secret

Is the War on Christmas Over?

AdAge.com says the War on Christmas is over and that the pro-Christmas crowd has won. Their article highlights the recent launch of the American Family Association’s famous list of retailers who won’t use the word “Christmas” in their advertisements.

Randy Sharp, director-special projects at the AFA, said that in the past five years the group has seen the percentage of retailers recognizing Christmas in their advertising rise from 20% to 80%. Just eight retailers are left on the group’s list of “Companies Against Christmas.”

It’s also become more challenging to find a large, national retailer to single out for the group’s annual boycott. This year, Dick’s Sporting Goods, which boasts an online “Holiday Shop,” will be the target of the boycott. The AFA is expected to send an Action Alert to its 2.3 million supporters on Friday morning. That alert will urge shoppers to boycott Dick’s between now and Dec. 25. It also calls for consumers to email President-Chief Operating Officer Joseph Schmidt and then call Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hennion. The retailer declined to comment. In the past, Target, Sears, Gap Inc. and Walmart have been targets.

We likewise have seen a dramatic drop in the number of media stories highlighting Christmas controversies around the world. From lighting displays to the traditional debates over Christmas in public schools there just doesn’t seem to be as much attention or publicity about the war on Christmas this year.

Even the news of a “holiday” tree in the State Capitol of Washingon — again — is drawing little response this year.

About the only brewing battle ground seems to the one fight being picked by atheists who argue against organized religion yet have organized themselves to select Christmastime as their moment to promote anti-God attitudes.

The war on Christmas has, in our view, always been a fad. Usually folks pick on Christmas to promote one agenda or another. It is rarely, if ever, about Christmas itself.

Liberty Council Announces Annual List of Retailers Who Won’t Say Christmas

The Florida based pro-life, Christian legal organization Liberty Council has officially launched its eighth annual “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign” aimed at combating the censorship of Christmas in today’s secularist culture.

In an announcement, Liberty Council highlighted its work over the past several years in educating people about their freedom to celebrate “Christmas” instead of the generic “winter holiday.” According to the group, it has overturned a number of “grinch-like” decisions, including rulings against nativity scenes on public property, the singing of Christmas carols by elderly members of nursing homes, and the censoring of words from Christmas carols by school officials.

As part of its efforts, Liberty Council offers a number of resources on its website for “Friends” of Christmas. Among the information on its site, Liberty Council offers two legal memos outlining the rights U.S. citizens have to celebrate Christmas. The first memo aims to educate citizens to their rights regarding the public celebration of Christmas, including the celebration of Christmas by teachers in public schools. The second memo instructs those in the work place regarding their rights.

The group has also published a “Naughty or Nice” list detailing those retailers who are not afraid to promote “Christmas” and those who opt for the politically correct “holiday.” Notable retailers that use the word “Christmas” repeatedly on their site include Big Lots, Cracker Barrell, Home Depot, Macy’s, and Sears among others.

Several large names landed on the “Naughty” side of the list, though. The clothing retailer Gap was put on the list for not promoting “Christmas” in its stores and several of its advertisements. The electronics store “Radio Shack” also ended up on the list after a search of its sight revealed that the word “Christmas” did not appear anywhere.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel remarked about the “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign”: “Renaming a Christmas tree to a holiday tree, stopping students from wearing red and green, and censoring religious Christmas carols are absurd, but true, examples of the war against Christmas.”

“If a government entity censors Christmas in violation of the Constitution, then we will first seek to educate but, if necessary, we will litigate. If retailers choose to profit from Christmas while pretending it does not exist, then we will patronize their competitors.”

Atheists Organize Christmas Campaigns for Converts

In an ironic twist in competing belief systems four separate groups of organized Atheists are expanding their efforts to draw new adherents by advertising on television, in magazines, on billboards and all over the Internet during the Christmas holiday season. Their marketing strategies run the gamut from traditional institutional type messaging to attack ads mocking belief in God.

The American Humanist Association is bankrolling new cable television ads shown via mainstream programming such as NBC’s Dateline on Friday November 12th that strip controversial texts from the Bible and spin them as barbaric. Though most of their efforts target Christianity they also have ads mocking passages of the Koran, validating their views with quotes from individuals such as Albert Einstein and Katharine Hepburn.

The New York Times provides a nice overview of the different campaigns and the thoughts behind the effort:

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., one of the groups running advertisements, said, “We feel the only way to fight the stigma toward atheists and agnostics is for people to feel like they know them, and they’re your neighbors and your friends. It’s the same idea as the out-of-the-closet campaign for gay rights.”

The groups’ leaders say they are trying to marshal secularists at a time when the religious right and politicians who say America is a “Christian nation” are on the march, thanks to the recent midterm elections when not only deficit hawks won seats in Congress, but many religious conservatives as well.

Several of the campaigns are pitched not just to nonbelievers, but also to liberal believers who might be alarmed about breaches in the wall of separation between church and state. The atheist groups believe that people who are religious and politically liberal have more in common with atheists and seculars than they do with religious conservatives.

American Atheists will be running this billboard in New York City:

Angry Light Hanger Sets Up Controversial Christmas Display

The drama over one man’s Christmas lights display is back, but for a very different reason. Bill Ansell’s yard in Ross Township, Pennsylviania was transformed every holiday season into something so spectacular it drew large crowds. But some neighbors got angry over all the extra traffic on the street from people who came to enjoy the lights. Something was said, feelings were hurt and now there is more controversy than ever.

The display this year is very different. It contains a Santa Claus with a traffic cone on his head, a Santa Claus that appears to be urinating, the Virgin Mary knocked to the ground and a snowman being run over. There are also trash bags, toy cars upside down, and carolers knocked sideways.

“I’m frightened for the children who drive by up there. I think it’s immoral what he did to Santa Claus,” said one woman who did not want her name used.

Debbie Cincala lives in Pine Township, and stopped to check out the display because she remembers what it used to be like. She was very surprised to find how it looks now: “I think he’s angry. It seems like he’s angry and bitter and maybe doing something the opposite of what he used to do unfortunately.”

Ansell has a sign up that reads: “Display shut down by Ross Township.” But Township Manager Wayne Jones says that’s not the case.

“We are not prohibiting him from having his annual Christmas lights display. He has had it for a number of years, and we have not ever tried to stop him from having it,” Jones said.

No one answered the door at Ansell’s home, and no one answered the phone, but he did speak to us in 2005 when some neighbors complained about the traffic his display caused.

“I’m not real happy this had to go this far, but you can’t make everybody happy I guess,” said Ansell.

Jones says Ansell is suing the township in federal court for harassment. He says police have cited Ansell for parking violations, and he was recently ordered to remove a tarp that blocked the line of sight for drivers.