Leesburg, Virginia Tries to Get a Grip on Holiday Displays

Leesburg, Virginia was in the news a lot last Christmas because they just couldn’t control how people would decorate for Christmas in the town’s public places. They do not want a repeat of last year’s media fiasco and community uproar.

The Loudon County Council is proposing this year to take matters into their own hands. Instead of allowing the public to put up their own decoration on the court house lawn, local media reports say the county is now considering putting up a Christmas tree, Nativity scene, Santa, and a Menorah on the lawn.

You can see already where this is headed.

That courthouse lawn will not be the only place where folks will be talking this Christmas. The mere mention of a Nativity scene will set out-of-state groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation on their heels and will bring out the lawyers. Stay tuned, Leesburg will likely stay in the Christmas headlines.

Staten Island Mall Tosses Nativity

A Staten Island mall has tossed a nativity scene traditionally located as part of the mall’s annual holiday decorating — and Christmas enthusiasts are not happy about it.

The mall is operated by General Growth Properties, one of the largest mall operators in the United States. General Growth declared bankruptcy about a year ago after struggling in several markets with the recessionary economy. Critics and jaded investors frequently complained that General Growth was out of touch with local communities and this was in large part a reason for their failure.

According to local media reports the mall has a history of controversy with religious displays dating back to 2006 where local individuals and organizations either were allowed to purchase space for religious displays or had the space donated to them.

In response to the ban this year on nativity scenes at the mall local activists are planning a “Christ is Christmas” day on November 18th and are circulating petitions that ask the mall to reinstate the displays.

Politics Blamed on Getting Santa Booted from Town Lighting Ceremony

(Grain Valley, Missouri) — A decision by Mayor Michael Todd to make some changes to this year’s Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting isn’t sitting well with one member of the public. Chuck Johnston, who has for several years been providing the tree lighting with the addition of Santa Claus at no cost, was notified by the mayor that his services would not be needed this year.

Johnston, a former alderman, twice lost the mayor’s race to Todd, and has been openly critical of the mayor, board of aldermen, and some members of the city staff. He believes the decision regarding the Christmas Tree Lighting is retaliation for his public comments and emails he has written to the board.

Johntson also drives through Grain Valley each year with the Santa Bus, which stops in neighborhoods throughout the city to deliver toys, meet with families and pose for pictures. The Santa Bus, not affiliated with the city, will continue making the rounds this holiday season.

“This isn’t something that should be made political,” Johnston said, indicating that he believed the city administrator, Alexa Barton, initiated the decision.

“If I had ever felt this was political, I wouldn’t have done Santa for Mike. But this isn’t about Mike or me, it is something for the kids and that is the way it should be kept. If Alexa has a problem with me, she should come to me about it, rather than making Mike the goat. If Mike is the one behind it than he should step back and look at who this affects.”

For his part, the mayor had few specifics in his statement regarding the entire controversy.

“Recently, I made several decisions regarding some changes to the Grain Valley Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting for this year,” Todd wrote. “I realize some of my decisions may not be popular with a few citizens, however, this event is ultimately for all of our citizens – specifically, the kids – and I believe the changes will make the Tree Lighting more like a Christmas Festival and an even better experience for the hundreds of citizens who attend.”

The lighting will still include a Santa Claus, according to Todd.

As for Johnston’s allegation that the city administrator was involved in the decision, Mayor Todd stated that it was “one hundred percent my decision. No one on city staff had any part in this decision.”

Barton said she didn’t know a lot about events in the past, but was excited for the things planned for this time around.

“This will be my second Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting since coming to the City in September of 2011, so my knowledge of past events is limited,” Barton said. “Yet, I do agree with the mayor that the enhancements to this year’s tree lighting ceremony will help make the evening more entertaining – not to mention different and exciting.”

She said she would love to share some of those changes with the public, “but that would ruin the surprise.” But she asked that everyone give it a chance before they criticize it.

“While there are a few folks in town who are adverse to change and would like to keep the event status quo, as it has been the last few years, the mayor would like to make the event better for our citizens, especially through these difficult economic times, so I encourage them to give it a chance and come enjoy the evening with us.”

Johnston said that, since he had been volunteering his time, any replacement which costs money would be wasteful, “if it isn’t something as good or better than what I provide.”

UK Media Campaign to Raise Awareness of God Offends Church Goers

A Church of England backed marketing campaign scheduled for the 2012 holiday season is already raising eyebrows in the marketplace and setting off traditional Christian church-goers in the UK. The new campaign mimicks a toy advertisement showing God as a doll with the words “He cries. He wees. He saves the world.” Here is a copy of the image:

The image is to be emblazoned on bus stops, advertising hoardings and in newspapers in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Another poster of the Godbaby carries the slogan: ‘The Gift that Loves You Back.’ They come with the words ‘not available in shops’ printed at the bottom.

ChurchAds.net says the aim of the campaign is to get a ‘Christ-focused’ message at the heart of ‘seasonal consumerism’. Campaigns from previous years have set the Nativity in a bus shelter and featured a Jesus baby scan.

Arun Arora, the Church of England’s communications director, said: ‘We need to be re-telling the story of Christ’s birth in ways which engage creatively and positively with the public’s interest.

Godbaby is edgy and pushes the boundaries of our comfort zones and into the places where people gather.’

But some visitors to the website of Christian charity the Evangelical Alliance were unimpressed.

One, Ann Johnston, wrote: ‘The baby doll is very tacky, very white and its squeaky clean appearance seems to sanitise the Biblical Nativity account completely.

‘I don’t think my non-Christian friends and relations would be at all impressed by the ad or even understand what it was trying to achieve.’

On the Chrysolis Christian site one visitor, Susanna, wrote: ‘I think this is blasphemous. Does Almighty God need us to market Him in plastic? I think not.

‘A certain commandment mentioning graven images springs to mind.’

Francis Goodwin, chairman and founder of ChurchAds.net, said: ‘Many people within the Church are supporting it but some are against it. It has upset a few people.

‘But we wanted to use something that would be talked about in the pub, at toddler groups and in the home. We wanted the campaign to have an impact and we will not be changing it.’

American Family Association Christmas Merchandise Mocked Online

The American Family Association has long advocated for Christmas in public. We have chronicled their attempts over the years to fight for Christmas in school and public places. Their annual campaign to promote saying “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” has become as traditional as anything else associated with the contemporary Christmas.

But we have had to cringe over the years at the bold faced marketing of supporting the Christmas effort. From buttons promoting the phrase “Merry Christmas” to signs depicting Christ in less than sacred ways it seems at times the AFA is more intent on making a profit on their Christmas wares than solidifying the message of Christmas.

Proof of this lies in recent media attention mocking an AFA product that appears to some folks to have a double meaning.

While we do not appreciate those who mock such sentiments we REALLY don’t appreciate the ongoing marketing of the Christmas message by the AFA.