American Family Association Doesn’t Want You to Shop at Christmas-less Gap

The American Family Association — a name as familiar in the War on the War on Christmas as the Freedom from Religion Foundation — really doesn’t want you to shop at The Gap or any of the stores associated with them (Banana Republic, Old Navy, etc).

Their crime? Shunning the word “Christmas”.

Sure enough, a quick look at websites and ads by these stores reveals a liberal use of the word “holiday” and a seeming drought for the word “Christmas”. It is almost like they purposely have scrub all reference to Christmas from everything associated with them. For this the AFA doesn’t want you buying any of your Christmas presents from The Gap.

The boycott does not appear to be affecting things much at The Gap. They recently announced encouraging results for the 3rd Quarter. And while exact Black Friday results have not yet been shared all faces are smiling at Gap offices in San Francisco (offices that are not, by the way, decorated for Christmas).

So what does this all mean? Does it mean the Gap can lower their expectations for the 4th quarter because their “holiday” sales will lag because of a boycott? Or does it mean the American Family Association is becoming less and less relevant as a focus on Christmas?

The American Family Association is one of the regular agitators in the so-called War on Christmas. Give them a media microphone or a television news camera and they will expound on the War on Christmas like it is a Hamas rocket shower on Israel. They will stir the hearts of Christmas purists while at the same time profiting from their passion by selling them yard signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts that say “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas”.

We are bigger believers in letting the market-place decide. Christmas is not what the AFA or The Gap defines it. It is what the Christmas celebrant defines it. If the Gap is not Christmasy enough for the average Christmas shopper, guess what? They won’t go there. But as long as the AFA continues to promote themselves from one position of extreme they will continue to make everything else good that they stand for seem a bit more ridiculous.

America has bigger problems to solve beyond a contrived war on Christmas.

Canadian Banks Refuse to Decorate for Christmas

Feuds of Christmas displayed on public grounds is one thing. But to complain about a bank not decorating for Christmas? Is that really a problem?

To some Canadians, it is.

Customers of a bank called RBC Financial Services are complaining that bank personnel claim it is against company policy this year to decorate for Christmas. A multi-branch check of the situation reveals that yes, indeed, RBC is not decorating for Christmas this year and employees state is it is company policy not to do so.

And why?

They don’t want to offend anyone.

So what’s happened.

Well, people are offended.

A company’s avoidance of “Christmas” isn’t a new thing. In fact, for years in the United States lists have been kept of companies that refuse to use the word “Christmas” in their seasonal advertising, who won’t allow their employees to say “Merry Christmas” or who just don’t decorate at all during the season. But rarely have we seen these types of reports coming from Canada.

As for the bank they say it is all a misunderstanding about a directive to keep holiday decorations tasteful.

We’re not sure how the leap is made from “keep it tasteful” to “keep it non-existent”. And we’re not sure, frankly, just how important it is that a bank decorate for Christmas in the first place. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t appear to be that important.

However, by flat out refusing to decorate and to have that policy forwarded by bank representatives to the public, well, that’s another thing altogether. That IS offensive. After all, if hearts can be plastered on the windows at Valentine’s Day why can’t there be a tree in the lobby? Banks sure process a lot of money during the Christmas season. It would seem prudent to keep that part of the business from being offended.

Rhode Island Sticks To Their Guns on Having a Holiday Tree

When Governor Lincoln Chaffee incited the wrath of political conservatives and Christmas purists alike last year by calling the lighting of the State tree a “holiday tree” instead of a “Christmas tree” nobody expected Rhode Island to change this year. And they haven’t. But perhaps a little gamesmanship is being played to downplay the controversy this year.

The announcement on Tuesday that the state would hold a tree-lighting ceremony in Providence came just 24 hours after the governor’s spokeswoman said the annual event had been scrubbed. Last year, protesters interrupted the ceremony with demands the conifer be officially referred to as a “Christmas tree.” Could the state be trying to avoid the controversy by putting out conflicting information?

Spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger blamed the confusion on a staff communication error and said there would in fact be a “holiday tree” lighting at an unspecified date.

“The governor has stated his position very clearly: He believes “holiday” is more inclusive,” she said. “It’s in a building paid for by all Rhode Islanders.”

Chafee’s decision not to use the word Christmas in reference to the tree drew criticism from conservatives last year, including one state lawmaker who dubbed him “Governor Grinch.” Some Christians see the trend towards “holiday” parties, cookies and trees as part of a secular drive to scrub the lexicon of references to Christmas.

The governor has argued that the term is consistent with the state’s history of religious tolerance, and Hunsinger noted that Chafee’s predecessor also used “holiday tree” on official invitations to the ceremonial lighting.

Take heart, Rhode Islanders. We understand they have Christmas trees in nearby Massachusetts.

Louisville Calls it a Community Tree…Then Wonders Why People are Upset

Technically, Louisville, Kentucky is in the Bible belt. People know a Christmas tree when they see one.

But as local media reports citizens are having to remind the city that a Christmas tree is not called a Community Tree. A press release issued recently by the city calls the tree a “Community Tree”, a fact that was not lost on TV reporters and local residents who immediately took to social media and letters to the editor to protest the political correctness-run-amok accusations.

The city says is was a mistake (how refreshing). They claim they have always called it the Community’s Christmas Tree. We’re waiting for the news to surface that the city was threatened in a letter or an email — usually by someone out of the area — for using the word “Christmas” in official city communications.

Mistake or not, a Christmas tree will still be called a Christmas tree in Louisville this year.

Toronto Christmas Tree Draws Jeers

What is it about Christmas trees this year? A fake tree in Michigan has people scratching their heads and in Belgium a what-is-that-thing-tree has traditionalists all upset, too. Now Toronto is in on the act with this tree:

We’re not too sure what the big deal is with this tree but as society continues to wander more and more away from the traditional Christmas we suspect we’ll see a lot more opinions expressing frustration that Christmas is “changing”. See the full store here.

Raleigh Christmas Parade Float Denounced as Racist

Raliegh, North Carolina holds a Christmas-themed parade each year and this year was no different. However, a local radio show is under fire for creating a float that featured a black man dressed as “The Christmas Fairy” hanging from the back of a tow truck. Local parade watchers and citizens took to Facebook and other social media to denounce the float as racist.

See the story here.

New Jersey Town Hangs Christ in Christmas Banner Again

The small New Jersey community of Pitman is once again getting ready for Christmas with all the traditions from the past. One of those traditions is a large banner spanning a busy street that proclaims “Keep Christ in Christmas”. The banner was targeted by the out-of-state Freedom From Religion Foundation last year.

Local media reports they expect the banner to go up peacefully this year. We’re not holding our breath.

Pat Robertson Calls Atheists Miserable Grinches

Television evangelist Pat Roberston stirred the waters of the War on Christmas by declaring this week that atheists are miserable people bent on destroying Christmas for Christians. “The Grinch is trying to steal our holiday. Atheists don’t like our happiness. They don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable.”

While we admit that many of the stories we cover on showcase atheist organizations opposing various forms of Christmas in public or tied to government entities we do NOT think those organizations are representative of most people without religion or faith. In fact, we know of many, many atheists who love Christmas and support public Christmas display.

It is shameful that both sides have to paint each other with such broad strokes.

For more on this story, see this link.

Fake Christmas Tree Causes Michigan Uproar

In the land of Bronners and a history of epic fights in the war on Christmas Michigan is back in the news on the War on Christmas with a controversy brewing over…a fake Christmas tree?

An upscale Detroit suburb (is there such a place anymore?) spent $30,000 on a new artificial tree festively decorated with more than 20,000 lights. And it is all fake, causing residents and merchants to grumble in social media and to city officials.

See the story here.

Texas Atheist Sends a Star — and a Threat

Henderson County Texas was one of the hotspots in the War on Christmas last year and it appears to be looking to make headlines again. Last year an out-of-state group filed a protest with the county over a nativity scene on public grounds. The group was given a Texas-style welcome for their interference in what most consider a local matter that just happened to get national media coverage. But as Thanksgiving gives way to Christmas later this week all the same parties are back on the same page and Henderson County Texas is about to make news again.

Local atheist-turned-Christian-turned-atheist-again activist Patrick Greene is taking a different approach to the situation this year. Last year, when local Christian groups heard of a family health issue for the Greenes they collected money to help. The gesture so touched Greene that he briefly converted to Christianity before returning to his atheist beliefs. Greene was gracious in receiving the gift. But his feelings about the public Christmas displays in Athens, Texas require him to take a stand and he is trying to do so without the heavy handed tactics employed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation last year.

“I went to Walmart, bought a cardboard box, got some gift wrapping material and made up a sign that said, ‘This star is a gift from two Texas atheists, Merry Christmas,'” he said.

Greene is an atheist from San Antonio. He threatened to sue Henderson County last winter over the nativity scene on its courthouse lawn, which has been displayed each Christmas for more than a decade. But Greene backed off the suit when his health began to fail.

As a sign of Christian goodwill, a church in Athens raised money, and sent Greene hundreds of dollars to help him and his wife through the health scare. Greene said they were genuinely touched by the people’s “generosity and kindness,” so they bought a star for the county’s nativity scene. He sent the star in March.

“We were very appreciative,” he said.

Greene said his sign, which arrived at the office of the Keep Athens Beautiful president on Nov. 20, is meant to undo damage done by other atheists.

Last year, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation also threatened to sue if Henderson County did not remove the nativity display from county property. They also requested what’s called an “equal time” display. Their display would have included a banner with a message reading, “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, may 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.”

Henderson County refused both requests.

Greene called the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s sign insulting.

“You don’t just push yourself into some place and insult people while you’re doing it,” he said. “We thought it was arrogant for Freedom From Religion Foundation to insult people, just to make a point.”

He said when he heard the county denied the foundation’s requests, “I told my wife that because of the animosity that grew toward atheists in general, that we should tell people – and make it a point – that atheists are the ones that gave them that star.”

So that’s when he went to Walmart, made his sign, and sent it, with his demand the sign be presented next to the star.

“We can’t risk any more animosity toward atheists by letting people think Christians are the ones that put the nativity scene there, and that Christians were the ones that put the star there,” he said.

Henderson County Attorney Clint Davis said once the county officially reviews Greene’s request, the county judge will have the final say on what to do with the sign.

“Typically, as we just did with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we have not allowed banners or signs of any kind,” he said. “The decorations we have to not have wordings, and they are simply decorations.”

If the sign and star are not displayed, Greene said he is drawing up a lawsuit that he will likely file against Henderson County this week or next week, claiming the entire Christmas display violates Texas Constitution because it infers the county is endorsing a religion.

“If people are insulted by my sign that said ‘atheist,’ then they have no intention of fostering the Christmas message, because goodwill toward men goes both ways,” Greene said.

Davis disputes Greene’s claims that the nativity scene violates Texas constitution.

“The county’s viewpoint is that we are in complete compliance with all the laws and all the regulations,” he said. “After a year-and-a-half into this, I’ve yet to have anybody from Henderson County that’s contacted me that said, ‘I’ve been personally offended by any display on county property.’ It’s all been from people from the outside. And that’s the frustrating thing when you think you’re doing everything right – everything you’re supposed to do – and you’re still subject to these attacks.”

Keep Athens Beautiful Executive Director Carol Morton said despite the distractions, the nativity scene will begin to be installed next week and the Light Up Athens Committee of Keep Athens Beautiful officially kicks off the Christmas season December 1.

“We’re here to make a beautiful display on the square for all the wonderful people in Henderson County and the city of Athens, so just come and have fun with us,” Morton said.

Arkansas Atheist Group Fights Kids Seeing A Charlie Brown Christmas

Little Rock school kids may have to miss out on a field trip to see a stage version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

KARK-TV reports that some parents were upset that Terry Elementary School in Little Rock wanted to take children to go see a play of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at a local church.

“The parents that we know in this situation are reluctant to speak up because they are concerned about their kids being singled out and bullied,” Anne Orsi, a lawyer and member of the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers, told KARK.

The group is a volunteer organization of secular individuals whose goals are to “promote public acceptance of nonbelievers” and “defend science education and the separation of church and state.”

Orsi said on the group’s Facebook page that the school is “sponsoring field trips to evangelical churches.”

“While everyone loves Charlie Brown, the religious content of the program is a problem, as is the trip to a church to see it,” she said.

Parents had mixed feelings about the controversy.

Shamar Stokes told KARK that he has a problem with the religious aspect but, in the end, “wouldn’t have a problem with my child going to see Charlie Brown.”

One unidentified parent did have a problem, though.

“I think church and school should be kept completely separate at all times,” the parent told the station.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which was first released in 1965, is the story about Charlie Brown looking past the commercialism that surrounds Christmas and finds the true meaning of the day through his friend Linus.

Judge Sides with Atheists, Santa Monica Christmas Will be Christian-Free

The atheist movement has won in Santa Monica, California — offsetting a recent defeat suffered in Texas. As we have covered here over the past two years about the Christmas controversies in Santa Monica the fight there came as a result of a beleaguered City Council who just could not make anyone happy. When atheists sued to be part of the 60-year traditional Christmas display that included nativities, Santas, reindeer, and candy canes the City Council opted to initiate a lottery system to dole out display space. When atheists won 18 of 21 spots, Christian display advocates took the matter to court to dispute the process.

Today the judge decided against the pro-Christian group, effectively ending the fight and taking Christmas down forever in Santa Monica (except on private property).

“The atheists won,” said William Becker, attorney for the Nativity group. He then went on to compare the city to Pontius Pilate, the judge at Jesus’ trial, saying: “It’s a shame about Christmas. Pontius Pilate was exactly the same kind of administrator.”

Global War on Christmas Takes Down Brussels Christmas Tree

It is everywhere. Local news reports in Brussels< Belgium tell the story of replacing the town's traditional Christmas tree and nativity scene and replacing them with an electronic "winter tree" to avoid offending the local Muslim population. Reports confirm that the historic local market will be a large display enabling visitors to climb the sculpture for a panoramic view of the city.

City councilwoman Bianca Debaets believes a “misplaced argument” over religious sensitivities has moved Brussels to put up the light sculpture. She points to the fact that it display not be referred to “Christmas” in any way to make her point.

“I suspect that the reference to the Christian religion was the decisive factor” in replacing the tree, she told reporters. “For a lot of people who are not Christians, the tree there is offensive to them.”

Many cities in Belgium have thriving Muslim populations. A 2008 study showed Muslims make up 25.5-percent of the population of Brussels, 3.9-percent of Flanders, and 4.0-percent of Wallonia.

Two Muslims elected to the Brussels city council last month have vowed to turn Belgium into a Muslim state based on Sharia law.

“Must a historic city like Brussels be sensitive to traditions? And should be a multi-religious city like Brussels not leave room for the individuality of every philosophy?,” Debaets asks

Canadian Drug Store Stops Christmas Music Due to Complaints

Shoppers Drug Mart in Vancouver, BC, started playing Christmas music late last week — just as the calendar turned over to November 1st. Within a few hours the company reports that customers complained and that due to those complaints they killed off the Christmas music.

That’s right. November 2, 2012 the Christmas music died at Shoppers Drug Mart. Evidently the store has had a years-long tradition of playing Christmas music after Halloween.

Spokeswoman Tammy Smitham says some customers had complained that it was too soon to be playing Christmas music in the stores.

She says Shoppers began playing Christmas music on Thursday, but some unhappy customers contacted the company through Facebook and customer service.

Smitham says the Christmas music will be back, likely later in the month.

While one British online survey found that 95 per cent of consumers prefer shopping with in-store music, nearly 50 per cent said November is too soon to start playing Christmas music in shops.

Henderson County Texas Denies Atheist Sign for Christmas

An East Texas county is denying an atheist organization’s request to display an anti-religious banner on the courthouse lawn of Henderson County, Texas this Christmas.

In fall 2011, the Henderson County Courthouse Nativity scene gained national attention when the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the county take the display down or let them put their own display up.

Last December, a banner paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was placed on the courthouse lawn. It read “there are no Gods” and that “religion is but myth.”

Just minutes later, Henderson County deputies took the banner down. Soon after, the Freedom From Religion Foundation started fighting to put it back up. A formal request to display the banner was submitted to the county earlier this year. This week, that request was officially denied.

“We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years,” says Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders.

Henderson County Officials say none of their holiday decorations consist of banners or anything with words on it.

“We did take into consideration what type of decoration, or display, they had to offer. We did ask them questions about if they had alternative Christmas decorations or displays and the response we got was ‘no’,” says Henderson County Attorney Clint Davis.

In a matter of weeks, the Nativity scene display will sit on the courthouse lawn where pumpkins and hay bales are now. The other three corners of the courthouse lawn will adorn secular decor, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation says Henderson County is still violating the constitution.

“We live under a secular and Godless constitution that requires that government should not take sides in matters of religion and personal conscience,” says Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Gaylor says the foundation isn’t surprised the county denied their request, but they are disappointed.

“What you have here, on this corner, is the focus. It’s the only focus. It’s a devotional Christian scene that promotes a Christian savior is born and that you have to worship him. That’s the message of the Nativity and that’s not a message that the government should be giving,” Gaylor says.

The county remains firm that their variety of decorations keep them in compliance with federal law.

“Overall it is a secular display. We have everything from lights to Christmas wreaths to garland… a Santa house to Santa Clause, deer, elves and gnomes,” says Davis.

Judge Sanders says he and the county are very thankful for all the support they’ve received in their decision.

“We’ve gotten support from all over the United States… people that have lived here before and have contacted us about how proud they are to be from Henderson County. That really is nice,” Sanders says.

“When you look at our overall objective here, which is to make our courthouse square appealing, attractive, inviting to the public… it was Judge Sanders’ opinion at the end of that process and at the end of our evaluation… that the banner they had offered did not accomplish this goal,” says Davis.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the display was brought to their attention by some of their members living in Henderson County. As to what happens next, the foundation says they are looking at all of their options.