Human Christmas Tree Gets Around Decoration Rules

A ban on Christmas decorations this year at the Staten Island ferry terminal in a bid to avoid lawsuits sparked an unusual protest Friday.

Self-proclaimed activist and Staten Island resident Scott LoBaido found a loophole in the rule imposed at the transit hub by the Department of Transportation and dressed up as a seven-foot Christmas tree, sparking smiles and cheers, myFOXny.com reported.

“It’s just a costume,” he said from inside the tree which was decorated with tinsel and baubles. “You ever come by here on Halloween? People have the craziest costumes.

This just happens to be what I’m wearing today.”

He called the department’s edict, introduced last week for safety reasons, as “political correctness gone crazy.”

“A simple Christmas tree brings so much joy,” LoBaido said while wandering the St. George terminal.

LoBaido told the New York Daily News he spent nearly $400 on the costume, using mostly chicken wire, duct tape and “a lot of battery-operated lights.”

Post Office Bars Santa from Delivering

The U.S. Postal Service is bankrupt. Abused by years of mismanagement and fierce competition in the shipping business the Postal Service is inept, incompetent and woefully broke. They’re cutting back services, stifling customer service and draining the coffers of the government at a record pace. We only point all this out in advance of telling this next sad chapter in the saga of the U.S. Postal Service.

The U.S. Postal Service has ordered a letter carrier to stop wearing a Santa Claus outfit after a co-worker complained.

Bob McLean has been dressing up as Santa for the past decade, donning a red suit to deliver the mail along his route in Bellevue, WA. He even has a snow white beard – that’s real.

“The government is shutting me down because it’s a non-postal regulation uniform, McLean told the Bellevue Reporter. “This was the first time; I don’t know what happened. I don’t step on anyone’s toes. Being Santa isn’t religious to me; it’s secular. It’s about giving.”

But the U.S. Postal Service said it’s about looking like a letter carrier.

“The Santa Claus suit is not in compliance with the Postal Service’s dress code for letter carriers,” Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson told Fox News & Commentary.

He confirmed that someone was not too happy about a colleague dressed like Jolly Old Saint Nick.

“He had been doing this for some and there had not been an issue and a couple of weeks ago one of his fellow carriers raised the issue with management,” Swanson said. “The postmaster acknowledges that until one of his fellow carriers made an issue out of it he was okay with it,” Swanson said.

By most accounts, McLean’s Santa suit was well-received along his route – especially the children.

“Little kids – they just stare because they wonder,” said Brenda Archuletta in an interview with the Bellevue Reporter.

“I love seeing Santa,” Rachel Young told television station News 9. “It does bring cheer. It brings something to old Main Street that other places don’t have.”

Regardless of what the Postal Service said, McLean told News 9 he plans on defying orders.

“Kinda going rogue,” he said. “Might get in trouble.”

The Postal Service said there was no leeway in the dress code.

“The postmaster didn’t feel he had any choice in the matter,” Swanson said.

FFRF Goes After Michigan City Now

At the center of yet another atheist-led drama is a nativity that is currently stationed inside Warren, Michigan City Hall. If the Christian-based imagery is going to be present, atheists contend that the town must also allow other religions displays that represent different viewpoints. The Freedom from Religion Foundation — making headlines and threats coast-to-coast this Christmas — has promised legal action if they continue to be ignored on the issue.

So, to level the playing field, they wish to post a sign that says (you may recall this same message from other nativity dramas, as this is frequently used by the FFRF):

“At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Douglas Marshall, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is claiming that Warren Mayor Jim Fouts is discriminating against atheists and nonbelievers, while engaging in illegal censorship. So far, the mayor has ignored Marshall’s requests to post the sign.

While the local atheist has apparently tried to place the sign inside city hall, it has been removed, as he does not have the permission to do so. If Fouts continues to ignore the request to place the sign inside of the government building, the FFRF has pledged to file a lawsuit in the coming days.

School District Bans Santa from Making Traditional Visit

A Massachusetts school system is embroiled in a war on Christmas debate after Santa Claus was initially banned from visiting elementary school children over “religious” concerns.

Since 1960 firefighters in the town of Saugus dressed up like Santa Claus and visited every elementary school handing out coloring books. But on Monday, the school superintendent told firefighters that they would not be welcomed into the classrooms.

“Certainly everyone acknowledges their holiday in a special way they want. But there is a conflict between the church and the state in that regard,” Superintendent Richard Langlois told MyFoxBoston.com.

However, Santa Claus is not a religious figure – and is not mentioned anywhere in the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus.

Regardless, the superintendent stood by his decision until word began to spread across the community. By late Monday, Santa had been given a temporary reprieve. The Saugus School Committee is expected to address the issue next month – meaning Santa’s days may be numbered.

“I couldn’t believe it,” firefighter Mark Gannon told MyFoxBoston.com. “There are so many things in the world going on – to see that all of a sudden Santa can’t go to the schools – what else are we going to give up?”

Gannon said he’s been participating in the Christmas tradition for the past 14 years – and said the children absolutely love to see Old Saint Nick.

“It’s a great thing,” he said.

Superintendent Langlois defended his Santa ban – saying he was simply enforcing the rules..

“I’m carrying out the orders of the school community,” he said. “I’m not overstepping my bounds.”

But the firefighters said there is absolutely nothing religious about what they are doing.

“There’s no religious content in the coloring books,” Gannon said, noting that the coloring books feature characters like Strawberry Shortcake.

At least one school committee member is supporting the firefighters, calling the Santa controversy a case of political correctness gone amuck.

Post Office Bans Christmas Carolers

A group of Christmas carolers was thrown out of a U.S. Post Office in Silver Spring, MD, after the post office manager told them they were not allowed to sing Christmas carols on government property.

A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service confirmed the incident occurred Saturday at a branch office in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center. A trio of carolers walked into the building dressed in attire reminiscent of Charles Dickens and began singing.

“They were only a few notes into their carol when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a scowling postal manager rushing to confront the carolers,” said JP Duffy, who was standing in a line with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Duffy, who also happens to be a staff member of the Family Research Council, said he was stunned by what happened next.

“He told them that they had to leave immediately because they were violating the post office’s policy against solicitation,” Duffy said. “He told them they couldn’t do this on government property. He said: ‘You can’t go into Congress and sing and you can’t do it here either.’”

A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s Capital Metro ARea said the carolers had “beautiful voices” but were told they could not perform in the lobby.

“Public assembly and public address, except when conducted or sponsored by the Postal Service, are prohibited in lobbies and other interior areas open to the public,” the spokesperson told Fox News & Commentary.

“We have rules and regulations governing conduct on postal property,” the spokesman said. “The only reason you should be inside is for postal business.”

The carolers explained that they had been performing at businesses in the shopping center for several years – including the post office – and they’ve never encountered any problems. But the post office employee refused to budge and ordered them to leave.

Duffy said that customers standing in line began to boo the postal worker.

“Over the last several years, we have watched militant secularists team up with federal bureaucrats in the effort to sterilize the public square of anything remotely connected to anything religious,” Duffy said. “This postal manager has clearly received the memo which has led him to stamp out Christmas caroling. But I have my own memo to all the Christmas carolers out there. Let’s not surrender to the secularist version of Christmas future.”

Duffy suggested that the U.S. Post Office follow the advice of its founder – Benjamin Franklin.

“So shalt thou always live jollily; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas,” Franklin once wrote.

“This is good advice that the U.S. Post Office and all of us would do well to heed,” Duffy said.

Five Thousand Show Up to Defend Texas Nativity

The battle over a nativity scene in Athens, Texas, reached new heights this weekend when up to 5,000 supporters flooded the town square. Their purpose? To stand firmly opposed to the attacks a prominent atheist group has waged on the religious display.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that frequently targets the presence of faith and religion in the public square, is demanding that a nativity scene be removed from public property.

On Saturday, thousands of supporters assembled in Athens Town Square to rally around and support the religious display. According to WTKR, some likened the ever-intensifying scenario a “holy war.”

Supporters of the nativity scene claim that there’s an attack on Christianity in America. ”It’s time for us to stand together and protect the very principles that made this nation great from its birth,” said Pastor Nathan Lorick, a nativity scene supporter. ”We‘ve become so busy with our lives that we’ve forgotten our first love.”

National Group Wants Courthouse Nativity Scene Removed: MyFoxDFW.com

Critics though — mostly atheists — believe that the scene is offensive and that it should not be present on government property (the nativity is currently positioned in front of the Henderson County Courthouse). The Daily Mail has more:

Saturday’s rally passed without incident and included speeches, patriotic music, Christmas carols and prayers.

The FFRF sent a banner to the court house that it wanted displayed, with a very different message than the birth of Christ.

The group‘s banner read ’At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail.’

‘There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but a myth & superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds,’ it finished.

The sign was initially put up by a mystery man, but was later removed because the proper compliance forms hadn’t been filed. While the FFRF is known to sue if it doesn’t win in these sorts of situations, the town, so far, shows no signs of backing down.

Grenade Shaped Ornament Sparks Controversy

The Swedish Army Museum has decided to sell grenade-shaped Christmas tree ornaments in an effort to raise money for charity. Proceeds will go to Christian Aid, a charity that aids in disaster relief and those affected by poverty.

The museum states that these ornaments will be a subtle reminder of those who are less fortunate during the holiday season.

There are some, however, who feel that the grenade-shaped ornaments set a bad example and glorify the horrors of war. One museum visitor stated:

“Quite simply I think it’s distasteful, especially if they are raising money for charity. This is a museum frequented by children and it’s hard to explain to them why there are hand grenades in the Christmas trees. This is an Army Museum, but should still try to highlight a non-war perspective.”

Helena Martinsson, the museum’s division head, understands the negative viewpoints, but emphasizes that the money raised from the sales will go to a charitable cause.

This is not the first time a weapon-inspired Christmas tree ornament has caused controversy. In 2006, Urban Outfitters offered an ornament in the shape of a glittering gun. They recommended people to “bust a cap” in their Christmas trees.

Light Fights in Florida

A Florida man known for his over-the-top holiday displays is battling the wrath of neighbors up-in-holiday arms over his annual Christmas Holiday Show.

Rick Newman of Boca Raton, Fla., is well known in the seaside community for the elaborate light and music displays he has staged twice a year, at Halloween and Christmas, for the past four years.

While his displays attract huge crowds of merry celebrators, they also attract controversy.

City officials threatened to shut down Newman’s Halloween show in October because of its live performances that featured 20 teenagers dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

This month, it’s his neighbors who want the show not to go on.

“There are two people that wake up in the morning being mean,” Newman told ABCNews.com, describing his most outspoken neighbors.

“One neighbor put up a barrier so that no one could park,” he said. “He’s a true Grinch. He comes over at night and yells at people.”

Newman’s Christmas display comes complete with more than 20,000 lights and Christmas figurines, all choreographed to holiday music broadcast on a PA system until 10 p.m. seven nights per week. There’s also fake snow and a real, live Santa Claus.

Newman, who has a background in sound engineering and nightclub production and now owns a DVD duplication company, says the show routinely draws at least 500 people on weekends, and crowds of 200 to 300 each weekday during its approximately six-week run from Thanks giving to the new year.

The un-neighborly fight over Christmas has been well-publicized in Boca Raton, but it hasn’t diminished crowds in search of Christmas cheer.

The show is so well-known that a local radio station broadcasts its soundtrack during the height of the Christmas season.

“People have come out of the woodwork in support of what I’m doing and think this is absolutely ridiculous,” Newman said. “This isn’t the hugest display in the world. This is just lights done to music and people like it.”

While the city’s concerns over Newman’s antics in October centered on whether his “Thriller” dances violated neighborhood code ordinances – they backed down only at the last minute after Newman agreed not to stage live performances at future shows – this time, officials say, Newman’s show is fine, but his neighbor’s actions are not.

“He told police he would remove the barriers but instead reinforced them this past weekend,” Newman said, referring to his neighbor, who has remained anonymous in the fight.

“The barricades are on the public swale so people cannot pull over to watch the show,” Newman said. “Their [the city’s] only concern right now is that the neighbors, because of what they did, created a parking hazard.”

Calls to Boca Raton city officials for comment have yet to be returned.

The neighbor who placed the barricades around Newman’s home hasn’t lived in his home for three years while it undergoes renovation, according to Newman.

The neighbor has not spoken publicly about his actions, choosing to wage his Christmas battle in the street, not the media.

Adding to the drama, and public’s interest, is Newman’s using his annual displays to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

He raised nearly $2,000 during this year’s Halloween display alone that featured the “Thriller” performances. That was more than the $1,400 he collected for last year’s Halloween and Christmas displays combined.

“All this is going to do is hurt the kids who come here and the ones who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to make it here,” Newman said.

Widespread Reports of Teachers Dissing Santa to Students

A Chireno substitute school teacher is the subject of some Christmas controversy this week after she apparently told a class of middle school students there is no Santa Claus.

The substitute art teacher, who was filling in for a long-term substitute teacher, reportedly made comments Wednesday during class suggesting that Santa is not real and your parents buy your Christmas presents and leave them underneath the tree every year.

Word of the incident spread, angering some parents who believe it is not a teacher’s place to tell children what to believe.

Earlier this week, a New York elementary school teacher came under fire after she apparently told her 7-year-old students there is no Santa Claus. According to published reports, during a discussion of the North Pole, the second grade geography teacher, apparently told the children their holiday presents were purchased by their parents, not Santa, the reports said.

Pennsylvania Town Decides Against FFRF

Anyone questioning Ellwood City’s holiday orientation received a definitive answer as the first float in Saturday’s Christmas parade passed the municipal building on Lawrence Avenue.

Children from the First Christian Church, dressed as cattle, sheep and angels, waved to the crowd assembled on the sidewalks.

“The night-before-Christmas creatures are looking for Jesus,” the public address announcer said. “Are you?”

A letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, revealed earlier this week, challenged the borough’s decision to display a Christian Nativity on municipal building property. The foundation asked to display a banner that said, in part, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

There were at least three Christian-themed floats in Saturday’s parade. There were no Freedom From Religion floats or banners. Municipal property, late Saturday afternoon, housed the Nativity along with Santa Claus, a reindeer and sleigh, a snowman, a Kwanzaa sign and a wind-blown Trader Horn advertisement (“all Christmas wreaths in stock 25% off, window candles 2 for $5.”)

When Saturday’s parade ended, three generations of Ellwood City resident Doris Rosado’s family visited the borough’s Nativity for photographs. There were two other families that arrived for photographs before them.

“I feel good about Ellwood City taking a stand,” Rosado said. “If you don’t believe in it, don’t look at it.”

On Friday, Ellwood City area residents rallied in support of the Nativity. One of the Christian supporters planted a handmade banner in the ground next to the Nativity. It reflected the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech … ”

Ashley Thompson, Rosado’s daughter, took a similar stance.

“I understand both sides of the controversy, but this is what the people want. Shouldn’t the people of Ellwood City decide what to do?”

Leave it to Wisconsin to Get Weird with Nativities

On Sunday, the group Wisconsin Family Action put up a nativity scene of the birth of Jesus in the Capitol rotunda.

Wednesday, an atheist group responded with a much different nativity scene.

It has the same setup: wise men, a baby in a manger, angels, but its certainly not the nativity scene most people are used to seeing.

The wise men are Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.

The baby is an African girl, to represent the birthplace of humanity.

The angels are an astronaut and the Statue of Liberty.

The group responsible for it admits they wouldn’t have even created it, if it wasn’t for the Christian nativity scene put up three days earlier.

“But, since it is a public forum, it didn’t look like legally we could do anything, so, we were left with putting up our own, natural nativity display,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

FFRF is putting up a fight against what it calls the blurring of church and state.

“We think that the rotunda is getting too littered, we don’t think that it should be a public forum for religion at the seat of government,” said Gaylor.

The nativity scene controversy comes just a few weeks after Governor Scott Walker referred to the pine tree put on display in the rotunda as a Christmas Tree, instead of a Holiday Tree, which it had been called since 1985.

“Yeah, I feel like the fact that there was a statement that, ‘this is a Christmas Tree, not a Holiday Tree,’ does make it a little…those lines are merging and I don’t think that should happen in government, said UW Student Ali Bramson.

Others think the Christian references and displays are hurting anybody.

“I personally thought it was mockery not to call it a Christmas Tree down through these years, because it seemed like you couldn’t celebrate any of the holidays,” said John McNeill, a Christian.

While the controversy goes on, many wish both sides would simply go away.

“I would rather see neither,” said visitor Caroline Greenwald. “I believe that the state represents the people, and the people are very diverse and represents all sorts of religion or non-religious attitudes or feelings.”

“We certainly need separation of church and state, so I think its very unfortunate that it becomes an issue,” said Ray Nashold, a former state worker.

The nativity scenes are both permitted and will stay up through the holidays.

UNICEF Sells By Saying Santa Doesn’t Do Poor Countries

A new ad from UNICEF Sweden is meant to encourage viewers to give gifts of charity during the Holiday Season, but has the punchline and vibe of an Occupy Wall Street propaganda linking Santa Claus to the 1 percent. Could the United Nations Children’s Fund be the latest participant in the War on Christmas?

While giving charitable donations in others names as gifts may be a noble gesture, the brash and cold Saint Nick presented in the commercial seems like an odd way to entice viewers to purchase UNICEF stocking suffers such as malaria tablets, rehydration bags and polio vaccines.

“I don’t do poor countries,” says Santa in a malevolent tone closing the commercial. He is followed by the UNICEF message “We go where Santa doesn’t — Buy your Christmas gifts at unicef.se.”