Michigan Town Fights for Christmas

Michigan Town Fights for Christmas

A Michigan town is bucking nationwide trends and renaming their annual winter parade a Christmas parade.

In Saline, Michigan they held the annual parade since 1975. A decade ago the parade name was changed to the Saline Holiday Parade, sparking plenty of conversation and local debate of political correctness run amok. A compromise of sorts was attempted last fall when the event was billed as the Saline Holiday/Christmas Parade. But folks weren’t buying it.

After ten long years the Chamber of Commerce has finally caved — and it will be known once again as the Saline Christmas Parade.

For more information, please see local coverage.

Legislation Advances Christmas in Schools

Legislation Advances Christmas in Schools

Several states are moving forward with their own version of protecting Christmas in public schools.

Now six states have Christmas in public schools on the legislative agenda: Indiana joins the parade of states looking to protect public schools from frivolous litigation over the observance of Christmas.

Senate Bill 326, introduced by Indiana Republican Jim Smith, would add language to the state code specifically allowing teachers to say “Happy Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Holidays,” and “other seasonal greetings.”

It would also allow schools to display “symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a Menorah, Christmas tree, Nativity scene, or other religious symbol associated with traditional winter celebrations,” if more than one religion is featured or if there is also a secular symbol displayed.

The bill also calls for the Indiana Department of Education to develop ways schools can introduce Christmas and other winter holidays into classroom instruction and displays.

As announced earlier in 2013, the state of Tennessee through State Senator Stacey Campfield has filed a bill in the state legislature. The bill is reportedly very similar to the Merry Christmas Bill passed in Texas last year.

Tennessee joins Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and now Indiana as states with bills-in-progress.

House Committee Orders Review of Christmas in VA Hospitals

House Committee Orders Review of Christmas in VA Hospitals

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has ordered a review of all VA policy prohibiting guests from wishing patients a Merry Christmas after four VA hospitals – including Augusta’s Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center – prevented letters, gifts and carols that contained religious phrases from being sung or delivered.

Committee chairman, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), has sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki demanding an overview of the steps the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking to correct this “potential infringement of basic constitutional rights”, the paper reports.

Miller said he wants to know by Monday what is being done to hold the VA employees responsible for the incidents.

“Christmas was declared a federal holiday by our government in the 1800s, and it is not up to the department to decide whether veterans, their families, volunteers, and veterans service organizations should be free to sing Christmas carols or exchange Christmas gifts within VA facilities,” Miller said in a statement.

The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta recently told high school students they could not perform religious-based carols at the site.

Media reports indicate that VA officials in Iowa City, Iowa, told American Legion representatives they could not hand out gifts to veterans if the wrapping paper included the words “Merry Christmas.”


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Teacher Refuses First Grader Speech About Family Christmas

Teacher Refuses First Grader Speech About Family Christmas

Several national media outlets have picked up this story after it was originally reported by The Blaze: a first grade student in Temecula, California on December 18th was allegedly censored by her school teacher when she tried to explain her family’s Christmas traditions by quoting verses from the Bible. Attorneys call the action a violation of the First Amendment, the second such incident in a Southern California public school during the month of December.

The allegations stem from an incident on Dec. 18 after a teacher asked first grade students at Helen Hunt-Jackson Elementary School in Temecula to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition and share it with the class, according to Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Murrieta-based nonprofit law firm.

In response to the assignment, student Brynn Williams took the Star of Bethlehem ornament from the top of her family’s Christmas tree “to represent her family’s tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated, and worked diligently on a one-minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family’s tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas time, attorneys said.

Williams was the last student in the first-grade class to give her one-minute presentation. Here is the part she managed to get out:

Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree. The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The three kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world.

At that point, the girl’s unidentified teacher at the public, taxpayer-funded school interrupted her, according to the attorneys working on her behalf.

“Stop right there! Go take your seat!” the teacher allegedly said. The teacher then explained to the entire class of first-grade students her judgment as a constitutional scholar that students are flatly prohibited from mentioning any part of the Bible in class.

Had Williams been allowed to finish, she would have quoted John 3:16.

When Brynn’s mother, Gina Williams, discussed the situation with school principal Ami Paradise, Williams was told that the Brynn’s teacher had to stop the presentation because “we don’t want to offend other students,” attorneys said.

Attorney Robert Tyler sent a letter (PDF) to the Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) demanding that a new policy be adopted to prohibit school officials from expressing disapproval or hostility toward religion or toward religious viewpoints expressed by students.

“The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation’s public schools has become epidemic,” Tyler said in a statement. “I hope that TVUSD will take the lead role in adopting a model policy to prohibit this abuse that has become all too common place for religious-minded students.”

There was no immediate response to the letter from TVUSD officials.

Mayor Tells Family to Take Down Christmas Decor on Christmas Eve

Mayor Tells Family to Take Down Christmas Decor on Christmas Eve

According to local media the mayor of one New Jersey town knocked on a citizen’s door on Christmas Eve and asked the family there to remove Christmas decorations allegedly found offensive by another neighbor.

Working with neighbors the Alvator family of Tenafly, New Jersey set out 300 decorative luminaries to celebrate Christmas. They claim to have cleared the action with local fire and police departments ahead of time.

“Our neighbors, from all different backgrounds, sent their children out to help fill the bags and light the candles early in the evening on Christmas Eve. We loved it. We thought it was a great sense of community,” said Scott Semone.

But by the time they sat down to a Christmas dinner around 9pm the mayor was knocking on the door and asking that the luminaries be removed. He claimed a neighbor a few doors down was offended by the candles and that he, being Jewish, understood how this neighbor felt.

“It had nothing to do with religion. It was about bringing people in our neighborhood closer together,” Jason Alvator said.

Media Complaints of Christmas-Too-Long Beginning

Media Complaints of Christmas-Too-Long Beginning

Much ado is made of Christmas too soon in America. Just as the Christmas-in-July signs come down from retailers the media begins a season they call “Christmas creep”, a three month period of whining about the presence of Christmas in the marketplace. There is a post-Christmas whine as well, though generally not as prolific. It is known as “Christmas crapping”, a period of time extending into spring when the media assails those who keep their decorations up too long.

Christmas has always been a long season. For many, the extension of the bright colors of red, green, gold and white of Christmas are merely a means of adding cheer to the frigid gray of winter. But in different countries Christmas is genuinely celebrated more in January than in December. Russia and Slavic countries celebrate Epiphany, Puerto Rico relishes the 12 Days of Christmas and in Norway they extend it up to 20 days.

Post Christmas in America has three stages: the post-Christmas sale, the post-Christmas blues, and post-Christmas crapping.

For many, kicking that dried out Christmas tree to the curb on December 26th is a practice made necessary for safety’s sake alone. But for some, stripping those decked halls of all evidence of Christmas is more of a signal that the new year is fresh and the weight loss season has begun (that ends on Super Bowl Sunday, TV rules the American observance of all holidays). Once those houses have been de-Christmasfied it is time to hit the stores to buy….more Christmas stuff at deep discounts.

Much of the media made note that the first Monday after the New Year is always the most depressing day of the year. The holidays are over, it’s cold, there are bills to pay and work to be done. This kicks in the post-Christmas blues — genuine regret that the fun and frivolity of the holidays are over. For some, the blues last as long as a day or two and for others it can extend weeks.

But things get really ugly when post-Christmas crapping begins. This part of the year round cycle of Christmas starts just as January as ending, as neighbors and maybe even “concerned” city councils look askance at those still displaying Christmas displays outside. Letters to the editor, newspaper opinion pieces and aired commentary at the end of local broadcast news will generally fill their dead space with expressions that “It’s time for Christmas to be put away.”

By Ground Hog’s day the critics are all claws and venom. The media by then will be openly disdainful of neighbor-on-neighbor rifts about Christmas stuff left up and out too long. For some, it may even end up in court. And the media gives a play-by-play of these events well past the month of March and into the Easter season.

Already a New Jersey media outlet is asking…when should those Christmas decorations come down?

Let the Christmas Crapping begin.

Christmas Book Claiming Jesus is White Pulled from Florida Schools

Christmas Book Claiming Jesus is White Pulled from Florida Schools

Horice Hymes asked his 7-year-old daughter an innocent question about what she learned in school on Monday. He found her answer horrifying.

“She told me, ‘I learned that the white on the candy cane stands for Jesus, because he was white'” Hymes said, “and the red on the candy cane was for the blood that he shed, and if you flip it upside down, the ‘J’ stands for Jesus.”

Hymes’ daughter was a first-grader at DeBary Elementary School, but he and his wife have since pulled her from the school, outraged that religion was even part of the curriculum, much less teaching their child, who is African-American, that Jesus was white.

Nancy Wait, with the Volusia County School District, said the lesson was part of a “Holidays Around the World” lesson, but a substitute teacher in Hymes’ daughter’s class used a certain book, which wasn’t supposed to be used, to teach a religious representation of the candy cane.

“This book was very religious in content and should not have been used,” said Wait. “Religion is not part of the public school system. So, that was done in error.”

Wait said the “Holidays Around the World” lessons will continue to be taught in Volusia County schools. However, the candy cane lesson is out, along with the book used for that lesson.

Hymes, though, said it’s too late.

“The damage is done, because now’s she’s questioning what we are teaching her,” he said.

Hymes said his family is talking to a lawyer and considering civil litigation for teaching their child a Christmas lesson that they feel confused her more than anything else.

California Teacher Swipes Candy Canes, Bans Jesus from School

California Teacher Swipes Candy Canes, Bans Jesus from School

Religious freedom advocates are calling on the West Covina (California) Unified School District to adopt policy changes and issue a formal apology after an alleged incident involving bullying against a Christian student.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom, an Irvine-based nonprofit law firm, issued a letter Monday on behalf of Isaiah Martinez, a first grader at Merced Elementary School who took traditional candy canes as Christmas gifts for his teacher, Valerie Lu, and classmates on Dec. 13, 2013, according to attorney Robert Tyler.

Each candy cane came with a message attached that recited the history of the candy cane, including references to the candy as a symbol of Jesus Christ, according to the letter Matinez-Demand-Letter-1 dated Jan. 6. [Editor’s note: the history attached to the candy canes is, of course, inaccurate and laden with religious symbolism never part of the origins of the candy cane. Click here to read the actual history of the candy cane.]

Attorneys say when Martinez brought the candy canes to class, Lu took possession of the candy canes, and after conferring with school principal Gordon Pfitzer, told Martinez that “Jesus is not allowed in school”.

Lu – at the apparent direction of Pfitzer – then ripped the candy cane message from each candy cane, threw the messages in the trash, and returned the candy canes back to Martinez for delivery to his classmates, according to attorneys.

In a statement, Tyler said the actions of the school district were “hostile and intimidating”, and called on officials to adopt an official policy that expressly prohibits school officials – including teachers – from “adopting any action or from engaging in any expression that can reasonably be viewed by a religiously affiliated student as disapproval of the student’s religion or hostile toward the student’s religion.”

“Advocates for Faith & Freedom has experienced a surge in phone calls from students and their parents across the country who are victims of religiously motivated bullying; not bullying by other students, but bullying by teachers and school officials,” said Tyler. “The pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that public schools are becoming a place of hostility toward Christian and other religiously-based worldviews.”

In addition to policy changes, Tyler also called for the West Covina Unified School District to implement training for teachers and other school officials on the First Amendment, “particularly as it relates to the rights of students to express themselves with religious viewpoints”.

There was no immediate reaction to the letter from school district officials.

A statement on the school district’s website (PDF) states school “programs and activities shall be free from discrimination, including harassment, with respect to a student’s actual or perceived sex, ethnic group identification, race, national origin, religion” and other characteristics.

This case is similar to another candy cane case from Plano, Texas, now more than a decade old, claiming that a student’s free speech rights were violated when he was not allowed to distribute candy canes with Christian messaging either.

VA Committee Gets an Earful About Rights and Christmas

VA Committee Gets an Earful About Rights and Christmas

Several incidents at Veterans Affairs medical centers over the holidays have prompted the House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman to question whether VA has violated the civil rights of veterans in its care.

In separate events at VA hospitals in December, administrators limited private donors, schools and veterans organizations from delivering Christmas-specific holiday cards, singing religious carols publicly and delivering gifts wrapped in Christmas paper.

The incidents sparked outcries from conservative groups and now have attracted the attention of at least two Republican lawmakers, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida and Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama.

Each has sent letters to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki asking him to look into the incidents and provide copies of VA policies regarding the distribution of religious material and gifts.

In his letter to Shinseki on Friday, Miller argued that because Christmas is a federal holiday and also a religious day, VA may be violating veterans rights by denying them the right to celebrate a government-approved holiday as well as their own religious traditions.

He noted that President Obama celebrated Christmas publicly by lighting the National Christmas Tree with “well-chosen words” recognizing the lessons of Jesus Christ without “proselytizing or seeking to impose” them on anyone.

“In taking it upon themselves to restrict Christmas cards, carols and gifts in certain locations, VA officials clearly ignored longstanding federal government traditions, basic common sense and possibly a 2011 federal consent decree that ordered VA not to ban religious speech,” Miller wrote.

The consent order Miller referred to is a 2011 judge’s ruling that forbade VA officials at a Houston cemetery from “editing, controlling or excising … the content of private religious speech and expression by speakers at VA-sponsored or non-VA-sponsored special ceremonies or events.”

The ruling resulted from a lawsuit in which a pastor and several veteran families alleged they were told by the cemetery director that prayers at official cemetery events had to be nondenominational.

VA Hospital Refuses Christmas Cards from Kids

VA Hospital Refuses Christmas Cards from Kids

A Dallas-area teacher, who is also the wife of a military veteran, recently collected Christmas cards from elementary students for bedridden Dallas VA Medical Center vets.

When she went to deliver the holiday messages, two days before Christmas, an employee at the VA said they couldn’t accept them because they included the phrases “Merry Christmas” and “God Bless You.”

The Liberty Institute sent a “demand” letter to the VA informing them the messages on the cards are protected under the 1st Amendment and if they don’t accept them, they will file a lawsuit.

Jonathan Saenz, with Texas Values and a rep for the Liberty Institute, said, “To suggest or think that an eight-year-old child who writes on their own and puts together a card that says “Merry Christmas” is somehow going to offend some wounded warrior in our hospital is just absurd. They’re involved in religious discrimination and they seem to not think there is anything wrong with that, but there is. It’s illegal and that’s why there are already a lot of lawyers looking into this and we haven’t heard the last of this.”

The VA responded via letter, stating their national policy allows them to accept the cards, but that they would be separated from secular messages and only handed out if a veteran specifically asks for a holiday card with a religious message.

The Liberty Institute adds this is happening in other states too.

They plan on filing a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs soon.