California Candy Cane Case Headed to Federal Court

California Candy Cane Case Headed to Federal Court

In the waning days of the 2013 Christmas season came the sad story of a six year old first grader who had his candy cane gifts for his classmates taken by his school teacher before he could distribute them. The problem? Attached to each candy cane was a religious themed message.

The teacher took possession of the candy canes once she saw that a religious message was attached. Then, after conferring with the school principal, the teacher told six year old student Isaiah Martinez that “Jesus is not allowed in school” and ripped the message from each candy cane and threw them in the trash while he watched.

She then handed the candy canes back to Isaiah to hand out to his classmates, which he nervously did, fearing he was in trouble for trying to attempting to spread “good tidings” with the class.

The story made national headlines. The issue, Isaiah’s parents and lawyers point out, is free speech. The issue, school officials say, is separation of Church and State. The gifts were from Isaiah, not the school.

Advocates reportedly chose to take on the case, explaining that schools often have a “misunderstanding of the separation between church and state.”

The group sent a letter to the West Covina Unified School District demanding that the school apologize for how Isaiah was treated and adopt a policy prohibiting school officials from discriminating against or intimidating Christian and other religiously-affiliated students.

After conducting an investigation, the school district decided that their actions were warranted, and Superintendent Debra Kaplan released a statement to Los Angeles-area news outlets defending the teacher’s actions. “At the present time, we do not have any reason to believe that the teacher or any other district employee had any intention other than to maintain an appropriate degree of religious neutrality in the classroom and to communicate this to the child in an age-appropriate manner,” Kaplan stated In response, advocates appealed to the school board requesting once again that Isaiah be allowed to hand out the candy canes and that the school board revise its policies.

When the school board also failed to adopt a new policy, Advocates appealed to the California Department of Education but the CDE has not yet responded.

“We shouldn’t be raising our kids to be afraid of expressing their Christian faith,” attorney Robert Tyler told NBC.

“The school has neglected to correct its actions, and after exhausting all options to avoid a lawsuit we were left with no choice but to file a complaint in federal court. We are asking the court to protect Isaiah’s rights and the rights of others like him from having their religious speech censored. Students do not shed their First Amendment rights just because they enter into a classroom.”

This case is very similar to another candy cane case that took place in Plano, Texas more than a decade ago. That case has languished in the courts all these years with various judicial branches split on free speech in schools.

Marshfield Massachusetts Schools Opt Out of Christmas Break

Marshfield Massachusetts Schools Opt Out of Christmas Break

Hearts are not merry in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Despite loud public outcry over changing “Christmas Break” on school calendars to “Holiday Break” the school board by a 3-2 vote made the change anyway. It has been a hot-button issue in the community for several months.

After a debate that was at times somewhat heated, the School Committee voted 3-2 on the name change Tuesday, Sept. 9. Committee members Dennis Scollins and Richard Greer voted against it, favoring the traditional name for the break.

The topic was put on the agenda after a parent emailed Superintendent of Schools Scott Borstel and asked whether the break’s name could be changed to “winter vacation,” noting that the phrase Christmas break was slightly archaic.

Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said that changing the name of the break has been happening slowly throughout the state in recent years.

“It’s been a trend over the last several years to secularize the winter break, the same way ‘Spring Break’ used to be ‘Easter Break,'” he said. However, Koocher said it’s generally not a big point of contention, and that his organization doesn’t regularly track which districts make the name change.

“Christmas is the legal name of the holiday,” Koocher noted, adding, “For whatever local reason, people have been making adjustments.”

In his remarks at the School Committee meeting, Scollins also noted that Christmas was a legal name for the holiday and said it was personally important to him to continue calling the break Christmas vacation.

“People are very comfortable with the word Christmas,” he said.

Greer agreed with Scollins, noting that it’s been called Christmas break for a long time and that it was a holiday Marshfield residents had historically celebrated.

Nancy Currie at first said she would vote to stay with Christmas, but changed her mind after hearing Shrand’s points on the matter, including that Shrand’s children had been teased in school for being half Catholic and half Jewish.

Chairwoman Marti Morrison said that from a practical standpoint, it made sense to keep Christmas in the name, since the holiday is the “only reason” that the break takes place at that time. However, she joined Currie and Shrand in voting in favor of the change.

Surveys Show Consumers Not Bothered by Christmas Ads

Surveys Show Consumers Not Bothered by Christmas Ads

creeperFor all the media hoopla about early Christmas displays and the dreaded “Christmas creep” comes this reality check from the cheap seats: people really don’t mind early Christmas advertising or merchandising. According to a poll by Bain and Company last week, more than two-thirds of those surveyed said it was much ado about nothing and that Christmas in September is no bog deal.

The positive responders report that early holiday marketing puts them in a good mood, helps them to avoid procrastination, and gives them helpful ideas. Those most likely to appreciate early promotions include shoppers under 45, those with children in their households, and those with annual incomes under $20,000, who may welcome the chance to spread holiday spending over longer periods.

Retailers prefer to spread out the business for obvious reasons. It creates a less chaotic and more productive shopping environment, leading to higher sales. It minimizes out-of-stock merchandise. It eases the need for extra distribution capacity. It reduces overtime costs, as well as the need to recruit, train, supervise, and then dismiss so many temporary workers and extra security personnel. It lessens the risk that bad weather might keep last-minute customers away from stores or delay deliveries to their homes.

Some psychologists contend that retailers create more harm than good through Christmas creep. They assert that premature holiday marketing violates traditions, diminishes the distinctiveness of the holiday itself, and angers people by making them feel manipulated. But behavioral economists could counter that observed actions reveal more than seemingly persuasive theories. As long as it’s working for enough retailers and customers, early holiday supply and demand will likely trump even the most elegant conjectures and complaints.

Well now. It’s not even October.

Whatever will the media do to occupy themselves between now and Thanksgiving?

Anti-Christmas Protests to Launch Thanksgiving Morning

Anti-Christmas Protests to Launch Thanksgiving Morning

As news begins to trickle in of retailers planning to open in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day we’re hearing that anti-Christmas protesters are planning to be there, too. It begs the question: Will Thanksgiving Day become the ultimate battleground in the War on Christmas?

The media is already in a tizzy each holiday season over “Christmas creep” — the selling of anything Christmas before Thanksgiving.

But when major retailers shifted Black Friday specials before and after Thanksgiving dinner last year the chorus of anti-Christmas voices blossomed in defense of retail workers forced from their families on Thanksgiving.

Unions organized and in parts of the country Black Friday morning protesters marching against low wages and working on holidays made headlines coast to coast.

Social media campaigns and online petitions were launched to seek out supporters who would not shop those Thanksgiving sales events.

But is all this upset of the shopping frenzy-before-the-feast really about Christmas?

We concur with those critical of retailers capitalizing on Thanksgiving Day. We’re against it. But we don’t blame Christmas. We blame retailers.

Regardless, the anti-Christmas forces of the FFRF and other atheist-driven organizations smell opportunity and will use the abuse of Thanksgiving to preach their anti-Christmas gospel.

DefendChristmas.com has been told that protests and banners this year will bear criticism of Christmas as well as retailers. In their view, none of this madness would be happening if not for Christmas. They will claim the sanctity of home, family and tradition are actually being spoiled by…Christmas.

It is a pretty compelling argument. We wonder where it will lead. And we wonder if it just might be enough to begin to turn the tide against culturally popular secular Christmas traditions such as Christmas shopping.

We can’t help but think a more frugal Christmas would be a good thing for everybody. We can’t help but agree the “rush to buy” is an absurd byproduct of an otherwise cherished season. By embracing an anti-Christmas strategy on Thanksgiving the FFRF just might swell their ranks overall.

Consumerist Calls Christmas a Retail Menace

Consumerist Calls Christmas a Retail Menace

Unreal. Consumerist is out with another ghastly news flash about Hallmark Christmas ornaments for sale now at CVS drug stores. While they acknowledge the fact that Hallmark introduces their new line every July the fact they are now for sale in a drug store is apparently too much for them.

Just what about retail does Consumerist really understand? Are they experts on the topic of retail or not?

Sales of Hallmark social greeting products are greater in drug stores than any other format of retail in the country. Greater than super stores, greater than independent retailers, even greater than Hallmark’s own shops. Upwards of $400/square foot is the average in social greeting products in drug stores. They are a huge market for Hallmark and a big benefit to retailers. Providing those products is what retailers like CVS call “customer service”.

What Consumerist doesn’t realize is that companies like CVS likely operate by contract with Hallmark and are under obligation to sell seasonal products on specific dates. We don’t know for sure but it is a safe assumption this is the case with two big national operations like CVS and Hallmark. They have operated this way for years and guess why? Because it sells. They are a “for profit” business and make no apologies for that.

Hallmark, by the way, has marketed their collectible ornaments in this fashion since the 1970s. In other words, this isn’t the first September Christmas rodeo for CVS and Hallmark. Why is Consumerist upset now to the point where they are calling this a “retail menace”?

Consumerist has long established itself as anti-Christmas. Why, we don’t particularly understand. More sales are generated thanks to Christmas than any other season of the year. It isn’t a short holiday such as Halloween or even back-to-school. It is a season, greater even than summer. Why does Consumerist hate it so much?

Why are they constantly calling out retailers for selling Christmas products at any time?

There are, believe it or not, year round Christmas stores.

There are, believe it or not, bookstores and craft stores that sell Hallmark Christmas items year round. They are collectible. All Consumerist has to do is peruse Ebay for five minutes to see that even ornaments sold last year are re-sold at higher prices by collectors. The year round availability of these items is crucial for collectors, even if that means they have to go to CVS to get it.

Consumerist would be better advised to stop crapping about Christmas creep and start informing consumers of market place realities that affect them. Christmas items on display in September doesn’t hurt a consumer. If they don’t want it, they don’t buy it. Natural market forces control these things and the truth about Christmas creep is that some years Christmas does well in the fall and others it does not.

Why Consumerist thinks this is a trend and why they might think it is bad is beyond an reasonable thinking.

They just hate Christmas.

Traditionalists Vow to Fight Charges of Racism in Netherlands

Traditionalists Vow to Fight Charges of Racism in Netherlands

For nearly 200 years the Netherlands have carried on the St. Nicholas tradition of Zwarte Piet, a black elf-like character that only last year was condemned by critics as a racist caricature. Traditionalists tell Defend Christmas that they are organizing counter protests and the Winter Festival of 2014 will feature more Black Petes than ever, all but guaranteeing this issue will once again be at the forefront of media discussions of Christmas.

The complaints against Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, began outside of the country, which does not have a long term history of racial issues, and it has exploded into an emotional debate as Christmas traditionalists inside the country cry foul.

While the character of St. Nicholas, both in a historic sense and in contemporary practice, has some similarities to Britain’s Father Christmas or America’s Santa Claus, the tradition of St. Nicholas is decidedly different in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas, as he is known, shows up in mid-November in many communities, usually riding a white horse and wearing the traditional Bishop’s robes of St. Nicholas.

Nicholas was, in fact, a Catholic bishop of world fame who lived in the 5th century. His tradition in the Netherlands is as much — still — a religious tradition as it is a seasonal celebration. He comes into town sometimes with dozens of assistants known as Black Petes. And together — Nicholas and Zwarte Piet — they determine which children are well behaved. They visit schools, hospitals, churches, stores and even private homes for weeks at a time leading up to St. Nicholas Day, traditionally observed on December 6th.

Children respond by singing Sinterklaas songs leaving out wish lists and water and hay for the horse. If St. Nicholas happens by while checking on their behavior, the next morning children may find chocolate coins or letter, candy treats, pepernoten, and little gifts in their shoes. Everyone hopes for sweets, not coal or a little bag of salt. In some families he may stop by every night, but usually just once or several times—and not if the children have been naughty that day or forgot to sing their songs. By tradition St. Nicholas hands out the goodies while Zwarte Piete doles out the bad stuff.

While there is some history of Zwarte Piet taking on darker and more sinister forms of punishment his character over time has become more one of whimsy and mischief. Ironically, it is the character of Sinterklaas that has remained more serious while Zwarte Piet has come to bring the more light-hearted element to the proceedings.

Last year the Jamaican chair of the UN Human Rights Commission condemned the practice of Black Pete. “The working group cannot understand that why it is that people in the Netherlands cannot see that this is a throwback to slavery and that in the 21st century this practice should stop. As a black person, I feel that if I was living in the Netherlands I would object to it,” she said.

Those comments cast an international media spotlight on the Christmas traditions in the Netherlands and led to hundreds of protesters marching on a park in The Hague in support of Dutch traditions.

This summer a court agreed that Black Pete is racist and encouraged organizers to change the tradition. In response the mayor of Amsterdam has vowed to gradually reduce the presence of Black Pete and to diminish his traditional characteristics.

While race hasn’t been at the forefront of issues in the Netherlands it has increased in focus. In fact, local media reports that complaints of race discrimination in the Netherlands have doubled in the past year, in part due to the controversy over Zwarte Piet.

Surveys also show an overwhelming sense that political correctness has taken root in the Netherlands, adversely affecting not only tradition but race relations overall.

Expect more strife this Christmas from the Netherlands.

San Diego Cities Pressured to Remove Christmas

San Diego Cities Pressured to Remove Christmas

San Diego — a city named after a Christian religious figure — is a hot bed of political correctness as cities in San Diego county debate the use of the word “Christmas” in traditional parades and holiday festivals. Recent discussions on the issue have brought forward threats if the word Christmas is not removed.

The topic of changing the parade name wasn’t even on the planning commission’s agenda during a recent meeting. They were there to discuss street closures.

But the issue has been around a long time. In 2005, several La Jollans wanted the Christmas Parade’s name changed to something without reference to a specific religion, but the La Jolla Town Council voted down the proposal 11-10 in a secret ballot. The issue arose again in 2009/2010 but went nowhere. The subject is sensitive in La Jolla, which once was notorious for its anti-Semitism.

The parade has set up its own 501(c)(3) organization, and is now completely separate from the town council. Ann Kerr Bache, who heads the parade, says informal polls have been taken regularly since 2005, and 89 percent to 92 percent of respondents say they do not want the name changed. Sponsors and donors do not want a name change.

Opponents of “Christmas” in the event have taken to new sinister tactics to facilitate change.

San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten urged LJCPA trustees to deny the street closures until a more inclusive name is determined. Marten noted that the names of most district-wide school performances have been changed from “Christmas” to “holiday”. Marten suggested that students in the district could help come up with an alternative name as part of the “critical discourse” encouraged by the Common Core State Standards initiative. Many schools have marching bands and color guards that participate in the parade.

Marten was blunt in making threats. “I will consider going to my board in the future and making recommendations for whether or not it’s appropriate for our schools to be participating in parades that have names that are not as inclusive as we might like.”

It is especially galling that an unelected official would make threats before a planning commission meeting discussing street closures. If Marten really wanted to pull the schools from the event she could do so but would face the wrath of public opinion against the idea and likely be forever blamed for the change. By threatening the commission she is subverting public input on the matter.

LJCPA trustee Fran Zimmerman, who pulled the item from the LJCPA’s August consent agenda, noted that The Washington Post — which is a newspaper and a private enterprise — will no longer use the term “Redskins” when referring to its local NFL team in editorials. “The United Nations has asked The Netherlands to please rethink its centuries-old Christmas tradition of Black Peter, Santa Claus’s right-hand man, in Holland,” she said, noting the feeling of many that the icon perpetuates racist stereotypes. “I’m not a big advocate of times changing, but I can tell you they have,” she said.

The parade is largely funded by private dollars, and does not receive any money from the city.

Trustee Rob Whittemore favored denying the street closures to send a message to event organizers. “We have a private organization using a public facility and about the only way we have any leverage to get the organization to sort of come (in line) with the modern times and become more politically correct … is by denying the street closures,” he said.

Lead name-change proponent Howard Singer, of the San Diego County Diversity and Inclusiveness Group, noted that the names of similar parades around the county have been changed to faith-neutral names.

Trustee Dan Courtney countered that the LJCPA should not be used as a “tool” for Singer and his group to “pursue their agenda.”

“I don’t think it’s appropriate, and personally, I think it’s really sad that it’s come to this,” Courtney said. “The Christmas Parade is a great thing. It makes everybody happy and it should not be attacked like this.”

In July, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association voted to ask that La Jolla Christmas Parade organizers change the name to one that does not reference a particular religion.

What makes this issue thornier is the fact the Christmas is recognized as a secular holiday by the Federal government. All sources tied to this discussion failed to explain what about the word Christmas in the context of the LaJolla event was in fact religious or offensive.

Never has there been a public protest of the event and last year several faith groups were recognized within the parade. Many fail to see what the problem is.

Christmas Creep Bleeds into Hate for Pumpkin Spice

Christmas Creep Bleeds into Hate for Pumpkin Spice

The assault on the season isn’t all about the protest of Christmas in September. There’s real backlash out there against pumpkin, too.

Seriously.

Even FoxNews is in on it stating that “…like Christmas creep, American’s can’t wait for that flavor of pumpkin spice in their food and drink.”. Uh….really?

Just because manufacturers, restaurants, bars and stores are marketing pumpkin flavored products doesn’t mean that Americans want them and that, inexplicably, August and September are “too early” for them to be on the market.

Don’t tell that to Consumerist.com. They’ve been on an anti-pumpkin kick since July. They don’t like pumpkin toaster strudel, pumpkin spice Oreos, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin yogurt, and pumpkin gum.

And, yeah, Consumerist has long been a hater of Christmas.

(What’s with those guys anyway? They state, “Our mission is to help consumers understand, engage with, and discuss the systems and forces that influence the marketplace, so that we, as consumers, can all make better, more informed decisions.” Have you seen their website? They hate everything. They are critical of everything. It’s almost like being a consumer means being a bitter soul).

Back to pumpkins —

The anti-pumpkin media is all over the so-called craze for all things pumpkin. Starbucks famously launched their very popular Pumpkin Spice Latte in August. One problem (besides having the gall to come out in August): it contains no pumpkin. (Oh, the horror. Somebody call the Pumpkin Police).

Even People.com has jumped on the anti-pumpkin and anti-Christmas bandwagon.

But the kicker of all pumpkin-too-early has to be this: a pumpkin spice condom.

Turns out it is a hoax.

But, Consumerist be damned, this is America. It’ll come out next year. In May, likely. That ought to get everyone talking even earlier about “seasonal creep” next year.

SavingChristmas.com Brought Down by Islamic Hackers

SavingChristmas.com Brought Down by Islamic Hackers

The Blaze.com is reporting that the website for Kirk Cameron’s new movie, SavingChristmas.com, has been hacked by Islamic hackers who have left dire warnings on the site in place of movie promotion.

We’re not sure if this is legitimate or merely a stunt to promote the movie.

If it is a stunt — and we doubt that it is — it is an ill-advised move that in the end will prove detrimental to the success of the production.

But if it is real the ramifications of this event are startling, regardless of how the movies does or if its message is accepted. Hackers of all varieties constantly hit most Christmas and Christian related websites. These events go largely undetected because in the background webmasters actively work to constantly thwart them.

But SavingChristmas.com is a fairly new site. And it has a clearly stated purpose aimed at a large general audience. For hackers to bring it down so quickly while spreading a message of “Whoever has bad ideas about our religion and our country including internet websites we will fight with them…” could be an ominous warning for any site with a pro-Christian or pro-Christmas agenda.

It should be noted that hackers and spammers over the course of the past six months especially have been targeting Christmas and Christian themed websites at an unprecedented rate. Most attacks appear to be coming from Russia, China and the Middle East. This is the first successful hack that we’ve heard about that has included any kind of messaging.

Media Stirs Pot Against Kmart and Gets No Response

Media Stirs Pot Against Kmart and Gets No Response

Time.com has the headline this morning about Kmart: Ho-Ho-What the hell? Chalk up another media outlet that doesn’t get it.

What Time.com seems to want is backlash from Kmart customers and the buying public. Breathlessly they quote a comment on Kmart’s Facebook page allegedly from a consumer that commented — almost as if by magic — about a half hour before Time’s hit piece was published this morning. Hmmmmm.

Scrolling through Kmart’s public comments one can see lots of complaints…but not really about a Christmas commercial.

Where’s the backlash? Where is the rage of a year ago? Why aren’t people responding?

Because it’s not an issue. Kmart’s ad is clever and it reaches just who it intends.

Time sums up their piece by saying “Oh yeah, forgot: It’s not Christmas season yet!”

News flash to Time.com and the media: yes it is the Christmas season. Kmart is right on time.

Media Misses the Joke in Kmart’s New Commercial

Media Misses the Joke in Kmart’s New Commercial

Last year during this same week Kmart launched a clever commercial promoting their layaway program. Kmart was besieged with complaints on their website and social media channels while the media had a field day bashing Kmart for celebrating Christmas too soon.

As we pointed out then — it’s a layaway program. The whole idea of a layaway program is to plan something out over time. 100 days is about right in the layaway business and given the recessionary nature of the economy of the past several years it has become big business indeed with Kmart competing with WalMart and others for the layaway business.

But, not wanting to rankle the media once again in their outreach to potential layaway customers, Kmart just launched another clever ad:

Today the media is starting to pick up the story and one very clueless TV station in — where else? — Chicago! — posted a headline reading “Forget Black Friday, Kmart Wants Christmas Shoppers Before Summer is Over” — once again, entirely missing the point of layaway….AND the commercial!

Showcasing their cluelessness entirely was this parting shot in their “news coverage”: “Kmart even came up with a new slogan: “Merry Birthday.” Christmas seems to come earlier every year, doesn’t it?”

The blind media assaults on Christmas just got taken to a new, ridiculous level.

Georgia TV Station Stunned By Christmas Decorations

Georgia TV Station Stunned By Christmas Decorations

Television news station WJCL cannot believe that with 114 days until Christmas that stores would actually put out seasonal decorations for sale. In a report touting the statistics of Christmas sales versus other seasons the “consumer reporter” tried to make a case for the merchandising but then showed nothing but clips of consumers who think it is “too early” for Christmas to be on the shelves.

This is a great example of lousy journalism and a total lack of media research in a topic. Any kind of search into merchandising routines would reveal that not only do retailers put out Christmas product four months or more ahead of time but they do so as well for other seasons.

This report, as typical of local TV news, fails to talk to one of the retailers in question or to represent any opposing views on the topic.

What is strange about this is that the report comes from the south, where Christmas and decorating is wildly popular compared to other areas of the country. But as is typical of the media reports we tend to see this time of the year, that wasn’t in the story either.

Don’t think these media complaints of Christmas-too-early are limited to the US. Here is another report from Sydney, Australia that even went so far as to consult clergy on the topic, turning the topic into a moral issue for some.