Sweden Bans SOME Christmas Lights

Sweden Bans SOME Christmas Lights

An early season debate on Christmas lights in Sweden has led to significant misunderstanding in that country. The government there recently announced a ban on Christmas lights that are traditionally hung from street light poles.

Some right-wing media outlets (Infowars and Breitbart) took the story and ran with it, claiming the country was trying to appease Muslim immigrants with the move.

The truth turns out to be something less spectacular. Christmas lights will be banned from utility poles only this year. Lights will still be permissible — and given Sweden’s love of Christmas — still visible everywhere else.

The problem has more to do with an aging infrastructure and the question of who pays for electrical costs than what the lights are actually for. This situation has been building for years and the government is merely stopping a practice that should have been brought under control long ago for safety and cost reasons.

There is some debate within Sweden that the restrictions are a bit too much. But those arguments in debate have more to do with the potential impact more darkened streets will have on commerce than they will have anything to do with Christmas or Muslims.

Sweden, like many other countries in Europe, has problems like any other country. But a love of Christmas isn’t really one of them.

Texas County Votes Against Atheist Christmas Display

Texas County Votes Against Atheist Christmas Display

A county in Texas denied a petition from an atheist group who wanted to place their own banner next to a Nativity scene at the county courthouse there at Christmas.

The banner was displayed in the courtroom before discussion started.

It read, from top to bottom, the Facebook symbol, then “/KerrvilleFreeThought, Happy Winter Solstice, At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the Birth of the Unconquered Sun – the TRUE reason for the season. As Americans, let us also honor the birth of our Bill of Rights, which reminds us there can be no freedom OF religion, without freedom FROM religion in government. Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF.org.

Pastor Greg Young of Kerrville asked to speak at the start of the regular meeting as he had a live radio show to broadcast at 11 a.m. and commissioners agreed.

Young said FFRF “preys upon small communities like Kerrville” saying the organization’s founder “has absolute disdain for Christianity.” He told a story to say allowing this one request would lead to multiple unwanted actions in the future, eventually pushing out current beliefs and values.

About 200 people were in the district courtroom, standing room only, by 11:20 a.m. when commissioners moved upstairs. Pollard had about a dozen speaker forms, offered one more chance for those, warned he expected order in the room, then called on Whitsett.

In case attendees hadn’t seen the photo of this banner in the agenda packet, Pollard helped Whitsett unroll and display it; and again said Whitsett asked to display the banner, and didn’t ask to block the Nativity scene.

Whitsett said, “I ask only that this banner be put up, and I would rather the other Manger Scene be put up, too. I think Christmas is a fine time to celebrate our Bill of Rights which was ratified near that season,” adding the FFRF Facebook page invites atheists and agnostics to take part in discussions. “We only want equal treatment,” Whitsett said.

The audience was mostly quiet, with a few audible “Amens” and supporting short comments. Every speaker opposed Whitsett’s request, and was applauded by the crowd.

Pam Wood called FFRF perhaps new to Kerrville but known elsewhere as an anti-religion group. She cited a definition of “free thinkers” by that group, saying they specifically mention Christians and Jews, making their argument for freedom from religion “disingenuous.” “They want a refusal because it suits their beliefs and allows them to go to court.”

Kenny Bledsoe said he’s a church-goer, and if this banner was allowed, it would be a foot in the door to Christianity in general for the FFRF. “They have the right to worship as they please, but I am opposed to putting this banner anywhere in Kerr County.”

Pastor Del Way of Calvary Temple Church said, “The problem is, they claim freedom from religion, but they want to do it on our holiday. I oppose this, especially on the courthouse square. We believe they are trying to take over our religion.” Way said he had more than 1,000 signatures on petitions from his church, and told Whitsett, “Leave us alone. Get your own holiday.”

John Hammack said America has been a nation under God since Columbus arrived; and asked commissioners “not to let some pagan atheist take Christ out of Christmas,” historically set Dec. 25.
Patricia Carson declared her faith in Jesus, and said it’s His birthday that’s celebrated. “If these other people want a special day, they need to get another special day.”

Starting with Buster Baldwin, commissioners said they are representative of citizens in their precincts, and hired to take care of citizens’ business. “That’s why there’s a ‘no’ vote from me,” Baldwin said.

One by one, Tom Moser, Judge Tom Pollard, Jonathan Letz and Bob Reeves said they agreed. Moser suggested the actual winter solstice Dec. 21 might be a better date, and protests from the audience were quickly quieted. Commissioners voted 5-0 to deny Whitsell’s request.

Firefighters Punished for Merry Christmas Billboard

Firefighters Punished for Merry Christmas Billboard

A fire fighting crew from Ohio has received disciplinary action against them for chipping in money to pay for a billboard wishing their community a Merry Christmas.

Seventeen firefighters belonging to one shift, known as Crew 3 or Super Crew 3, have received punishments ranging from reprimands for the firefighters and suspensions and probationary periods for three lieutenants and a captain. In addition, a retired captain has been barred from all fire stations in Lancaster.

The billboard was paid for by the firefighters, who decided that they would show “crew pride” instead of exchanging gifts. The billboard was in place from November 30 to December 15 when it was ordered removed. A city attorney determined it presented a civil liability because the “Merry Christmas” message expressed religious favoritism. Those involved are also in trouble for failing to get permission to take the picture at a Lancaster firehouse while they were on duty.

Once again, the arbitrary decision of one (the city attorney) determines the fate of many proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

Ugly Australian Christmas Tree Rejected Again

Ugly Australian Christmas Tree Rejected Again

The Australian city of Hobart — a state capitol city — had a reputation for the worst Christmas decorations in Australia. Australia is big on Christmas — so this was not a good image for the city.

So last year they sponsored the creation of a new city Christmas tree — and it was quickly dubbed by the public as the ugliest tree ever, becoming a joke on social media and an international embarrassment to the city.

The tree was of modern art design and had zero traditional elements to it. No pine boughs, no baubles, and no star or angel at the top. It was merely a twisted frame of metal designed to allow the public to walk inside the tree and look up at the sky through it. To many who walked past the tree the thing did little to suggest it was a Christmas tree at all. As the city publicized the lighting of the tree and sent pictures to the media cries of “Where’s the tree?” were not taken seriously.

Hobart, it seemed, didn’t even have the Charlie Browniest of Christmas trees. It was much, much worse.

So during this off-season the city council in Hobart has taken up the issue and the debate centered on whether or not the tree could be saved and improved upon.

After all, $35,000 had been spent and there was some face saving that needed to be done.

So the Lord Mayor consulted some experts and presented another plan. She was laughed and ridiculed out of the chamber after proposing changes that would cost nearly double the original expense of the tree. Her answer seemed to be filling the center of the tree with a brass dome and dressing the tree skeleton with traditional Christmas elements at Christmas time.

There was hope that someone in Hobart had some love for the tree. “It’s dearly loved by the traders of Salamanca and they want to hold onto the tree, they want to keep it all-year round as an architectural piece and then kept as a Christmas tree at Christmas time,” said one Alderman.

But the tree is simply too hated to be saved.

Alderman Marti Zucco, who dubbed the first design akin to a tomato trestle, said he was surprised the plan even came to council for consideration. “It was overwhelmingly rejected practically all over the world,” he said. “To then try and spend another $50,000 to put a brass dome in the center of it is absolutely ludicrous. I’m baffled as to who actually allowed the report to get to council in the first place – I’m concerned council officers spent time and effort doing this. “It reflects the capital city, and to have a structure that looks like a tomato structure and sell it as a Christmas tree is beyond belief – and to spend another $50,000 sprucing it up is beyond comprehension.”

What will become of Hobart’s tree? Recyclers are apparently standing by.

Atheists Attack Christians, Santa and Christmas

Atheists Attack Christians, Santa and Christmas

As they do every year a group calling themselves American Atheists have erected billboards encouraging people to “skip Church” at Christmas. This is your war on Christmas in a nutshell: attack the religious.

Showing Santa Claus — a figure of antiquity who was a member of the clergy and true believer in Christ — the billboard proclaims: “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness’ sake”.

The message is anti-religion. It is anti-Christmas. It is anti-Christ.

And it is an affront to many atheists. Surveys have long shown that most atheists celebrate Christmas inclusive of the traditional icons and symbols of the season including Christmas trees and Nativities. While most claim to do so for sentimental reasons they also see no harm in retaining those symbols during a season long lauded for peace, service and “goodwill to all men”.

As is typical, the group posted the billboards in two states highly saturated with Christian believers — and expected the media to carry the message forward. The media has cooperated fully, as it always does.

A spokesman for American Atheists, Randy Gotovich, told Fox News 21 in Colorado that their goal is not to attack Christmas but to make the holiday more inclusive for people of different faiths.

“We’re trying to be inclusive of everyone in Christmas and saying that anyone can celebrate it. It shouldn’t be viewed strictly as a Christian holiday,” he said.

This kind of weird messaging flies in the fact of most American Atheist activities, including the removal of nativities from public spaces and the singing of Christmas carols in schools.

Elkhart School Blinks, Adds Kwanzaa to Christmas Spectacular

Elkhart School Blinks, Adds Kwanzaa to Christmas Spectacular

The widely reported case of a high school sued by the Freedom from Religion Foundation for performing a production with a live Nativity has taken a new twist. In an announcement to local media the school now says the Bible verses previously used in the production have been removed and replaced with historical references to Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. The live Nativity stays, making the event “consistent” with other legally allowed events associated with public schools, according to a local attorney.

The case has been one of the rare events where a school refused to back down on their production and face the FFRF in court — until now. Reactions to the moves on social media have been mixed.

“I see nothing wrong with including Hanukkah and Kwanza I think it brings unity to the season.” writes Debbie Barden.

Richard Dick Trowbridge takes exception. “Apparently Mr. Wheeler has not read the Constitution, and has caved into the demands of the bullies that want to force Christianity out of our culture. The School should hire a real attorney who understands the Constitution. You have never needed to have equal representation of other religions or their history at a Christian presentation. Government can support religion but not interfere in the Free exercise of that religious experience.” Educate yourselves it is your Freedoms that are at stake.”

Some are predicting more kids than ever are now going to drop from participating in the program because of the changes.

Georgia Non-Profit Bans Christmas Trees as a Religious Symbol

Georgia Non-Profit Bans Christmas Trees as a Religious Symbol

A 22-year tradition in Georgia is no more — and all because the governing board of a non-profit believes a Christmas tree is a religious symbol.

The annual “Light Up Dunwoody” Christmas event has been canceled and now moved from Dunwoody, GA — located a short distance north east of Atlanta.

The event was sponsored by the Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association and is usually held at the preservation trust’s farm house. In addition to lighting the Christmas tree this year, the homeowners association wanted to light a six foot menorah.

“We were concerned about putting the menorah on the lawn,“ said Melanie Williams of the Dunwoody Preservation Trust. “We really wanted to be inclusive of everyone. We didn’t want to display things that would reflect exclusivity.”

They made the request last year for the menorah but was denied then because of short notice. So they requested early this year and ended up losing not only the menorah but now the Christmas tree — and that’s because the board somehow feels the Christmas tree is a religious symbol.

Williams said the board didn’t want to exclude any member of the community so it decided to ban all non-secular symbols. In a statement released to local media the board asks that the homeowners association move the tree somewhere else. Absent from the statement was the admission that the Christmas tree was the dominating feature of the event.

The homeowners association president, Robert Wittenstein, said he’s disappointed in the Preservation Trust’s decision and has decided to move the event elsewhere.

“It’s hard for us to reconcile a desire not to have the Christmas tree because its potentially a religious symbol, but welcome Santa and the reindeer,” said Wittenstein.

In a rather funny twist to this story the Preservation Trust board didn’t want publicity over the disagreement and local media reports they made threats against the home owners association if bad publicity was the result. Looks like someone will have to make good on those threats.

It would be important to note that at no time in this debate has there been raised the issue of Church versus State. This is a case of pure religious exclusion and discrimination by the Preservation Trust. In their effort to be inclusive they have managed to say that religion is to be excluded simply because it is religion.

Perhaps someone should educate the Preservation Trust about what the Supreme Court says about the Christmas tree — that it is NOT a religious symbol.

That simple knowledge could resolve this whole situation.

Spain Abandons Black Face Tradition

Spain Abandons Black Face Tradition

The issue of black-faced whites portraying Christmas characters in parades and seasonal festivities is not limited to the Netherlands. After years of controversy government officials in Madrid say that any future depiction of King Balthazar in Spain will be portrayed by a black person. In years past the part has been played by a white individual with a blackened face. Spanish tradition in Madrid includes a parade in which the three Wisemen are shown.

“This change is much more than just anecdotal,” Socialist city councillor Mar Espinar said on Wednesday. Her party has spent years championing changes to the event. “Given the increasingly large community of colour in our city, it seems absurd that this role continues to be represented by a person with their face blackened.”

Over in the Dutch capital of The Hague meanwhile, the education board said elementary schools would no longer use Santa helpers with painted black faces, another holiday tradition that had caused considerable offence.

The move, which came after the United Nations called last month for the “Black Pete” practice to be modified to avoid reflecting negative stereotypes, is the broadest measure against the practice, and will affect more than 160 schools, Reuters reported.

A majority of Dutch people reject any suggestion that Black Pete, typically played by white people in blackface, is racist. But many others disagree. Starting this year, schools in The Hague will begin phasing out the use of blackface, curly hair wigs and red painted lips, with the changes to be completed within three years. They will be replaced with visually neutral Santa servants.

It would be important to note that while Spain and other Catholic dominated societies enjoy the tradition of Three Kings Day the Bible doesn’t actually mention how many of the Magi there were or what their ethnicity might be. The names of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar are nowhere to be found in Christian scripture. Many places around the world show the Wisemen at the Nativity but the Bible says they actually did not show until the Christ child was likely more than 2 years old.

Christmas Banned in Brunei

Christmas Banned in Brunei

If you dress like Santa in Brunei the government there has one message: no Christmas for you. Oil-rich Brunei has officially banned all public celebrations of Christmas, announced its Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Businesses that publicly displayed Christmas decorations were also asked to take them down and the ministry confirmed receiving their “full cooperation” on it.

The move follows Brunei’s wealthy Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s announcement last April on the introduction of a new Islamic penal code making it the first East Asian country to ever introduce Islamic criminal law.

Under the new law, Brunei’s Muslim residents will face prosecution by Islamic courts for offences, including pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers, and propagating other religions, reported Reuters.

Starting this April, offences like theft and alcohol consumption by Muslims, will be punishable by whipping and amputations, and death penalty by stoning is also to be introduced in the next phase for offences like adultery, sodomy and insulting the Quran or the Prophet Muhammed.

In response to queries on the new ban, a spokesman quoted a 27 December ministry statement on The Brunei Times that condemned any public act of celebrating non-Islamic rituals as they, “can be seen as propagations of religions other than Islam.”

The statement further said, reported The Brunei Times: “Believers of other religions that live under the rule of an Islamic country – according to Islam – may practise their religion or celebrate their religious festivities among their community, with the condition that the celebrations are not disclosed or displayed publicly to Muslims.

“Muslims should be careful not to follow celebrations such as these that are not in any way related to Islam, for it is feared that this could lead to tasyabbuh (imitation) and could unknowingly damage the aqidah (faith) of Muslims.”

Town Thumbs Nose at FFRF

Town Thumbs Nose at FFRF

Once again the FFRF is claiming that an anonymous citizen is complaining to them about their rights being violated when a city puts up a Nativity scene. But this time a city in Indiana is saying, “Oh yeah? Put up or shut up.” Brookville, Indiana received a letter threatening a lawsuit for their Nativity display from the FFRF. They have received a letter every year since 2010 when the FFRF claimed they were contacted by a citizen.

That’s the odd consistency about the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Rarely do these “citizens” they are suing for contact local city councils or authorities about their complaints. It is often anonymously done. The FFRF will send a letter threatening lawsuit and the city, county or school who receives the letter will back down or change. Nobody needs the expense of lawyers.

But there’s a stubborn streak in Brookville.

Wayne Monroe decided to put the scene on a trailer a few years ago and volunteers to set it up every year.

“There was just a group of us at the coffee shop one day that said “well, let’s go build it,” said Monroe who says he’s never had one complaint about it.

“As far as I know, the town is 110% for it,” said Monroe.

Then came the FFRF letters.

“Tell them to take a bill out of their wallet and look on the back of it. It says In God We Trust,” says Monroe.

In response to the controversy, the community has put up nativity scenes all over town including street corners, roofs and even the local grocery store. IGA store manager in Brookville Jim Singer says he hasn’t received any complaints either.

“It’s always been a Christian community and everybody just gets into it and rallies the support when somebody says you can’t do that,” said Singer.

“I don’t understand why people are getting so offended by this. It doesn’t matter what religion you are you should respect everybody,” said Francis Yee, a 16 year Brookville resident.

The FFRF isn’t saying what they are going to do about it. For four years all they have done is send threatening letters. And they have made their case on their website — still dated 2010.

FFRF Takes Out Christ, Community Puts in Jesus

FFRF Takes Out Christ, Community Puts in Jesus

Last week we shared the familiar story of a community under attack by an out-of-state entity threatening a lawsuit because of a religious theme to a city’s Christmas parade. The community of Piedmont, Alabama received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that they would sue if the city put on a Christmas parade with the theme “Keep Christ in Christmas”. The city council met and told the FFRF, as many communities have before, they would change the theme.

The new theme? Jesus in the Reason for the Season.

Residents lined Piedmont streets for the hour-long parade, which included Boy Scout troops, the high school marching band, beauty queens and several church floats. Many of the participants held hand-lettered signs that read “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and several spectators carried hand-held poster boards with the same message.

The parade was the most popular ever in the history of Piedmont according it the mayor, Bill Baker, who also indicated that most floats represented the theme boldly.

“This anti-religious group that started all this stuff, I really believe this has backfired on them,” Baker told the media. “What has happened now is the city of Piedmont, great city to live in, great people, has rallied. They have caused our parade to be bigger and better with more emphasis placed on Christianity.”

Racial Strife Mars Christmas Events

Racial Strife Mars Christmas Events

Events in Ferguson continue to spark protests that have extended into the events of Christmas. Last night’s tree lighting at New York’s Rockefeller Center coincided with a street protest and another grand jury decision not to charge a white cop will killing a black suspect. In a bizarre elevation of the rhetoric singer Darius Rucker took criticism for singing “White Christmas” at the event.

The ceremony went ahead under police protection, and Rucker performed “White Christmas,” a classic written by a Jewish immigrant, Irving Berlin. The song refers to snow, not to race, in recalling a traditional Christmas scene.

Critics, however, believed that the mere reference to the color “white” by a black singer in the throes of a racially-charged controversy was offensive and suggested a contempt for the feelings of other black people.

Last week a group of children performing Christmas carols in a mall in suburban Washington state were surrounded by threatening protesters. The protesters, who also attempted to disrupt a tree-lighting ceremony, managed to get the mall shut down for four hours on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, were unapologetic for their actions.

March leader Marissa Johnson countered, telling KING that “America goes where their pocketbook goes, so today we’re blocking Black Friday. We want you to be uncomfortable shopping.” A KING reporter noted that other children in the crowd “looked confused” regarding the protesters’ actions.

American Atheists Go After the Kids this Christmas

American Atheists Go After the Kids this Christmas

Every year the group American Atheists puts up billboards that get lots of free press for them by their shocking and provocative nature. This year, the billboards in several south cities shows a child in a Santa hat writing to Santa to ask to skip church.

The billboards have, by design, upset a lot of people.

The group targeted Bible Belt cities including Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Fort Smith, Ark. A fifth billboard in Milwaukee is co-sponsored with another group.

The group previously put signs in urban locales like Times Square but chose residential areas near schools and churches for its latest campaign.

In a Facebook post, the group said the billboards are “aimed at the in-the-closet atheists who are pressured to observe religious traditions during the holidays.”

The group got some push back in Jackson, Miss., where local residents were upset about the sign’s content. The sign was rejected.

The campaign is scheduled to run from Dec. 1 through Dec. 24.

FFRF Goes After Snow Plows in Sioux Falls

FFRF Goes After Snow Plows in Sioux Falls

Two snow plows painted by a local school as part of the Sioux Falls annual ‘Paint the Plow’ event might not make it out on the street this winter.

One group is challenging the city.

City Hall soon will be decorated for the holidays but one group is attempting to fight city hall on just how much government can get into the Christmas spirit.

The group Freedom From Religion Foundation or FFRF recognizes several state and local government buildings are decked out for the holidays.

Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott said “the courts have looked at displays and have said a Christmas Tree is something that is permissible, proclaiming the birth of Jesus is something that is impermissible for the government to do.”

It”s why the group has an issue with these city snow plows decorated by a local school.

“They’re basically a roving billboard. I think citizens in the community would perceive a problem with it if a plow said ‘praise Allah, or there are no gods.’ That’s city equipment. It’s moving around the city basically all winter,” Elliott said.

Now those plow will come with a disclaimer.

Mayor Mike Huether said “we prefer utilizing compromise and common ground and common sense vs. the court system to resolve issues we have.”

Even after the Christmas season is over, some may argue religious symbols are part of our daily life, whether it’s on our money or in our Pledge of Allegiance.

“We think those things are problematic as well. The courts obviously haven’t agreed on a number of those things and when they’ve addressed those, they’ve more so been allowed because of their history,” Elliott said.

The group Freedom From Religion Foundation says it has about 10 other cases it’s working on challenging the separation between church and state as a violation of the Constitution.

Michigan Shapes Up as Battle Ground Over Nativity Scene

Michigan Shapes Up as Battle Ground Over Nativity Scene

Michigan state officials are considering whether a Christian Nativity scene and a counter-display from a secularist group should join the state Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn this holiday season.

The State Capitol Commission on Monday agreed to contract with the Michigan attorney general’s office for a part-time staff attorney over six months for $37,000. The attorney would advise the commission on various issues, including the request to place a representation of the birth of Jesus at the state Capitol.

Commission member John Truscott said he expects the office will approve the Nativity with the same conditions as demonstrations that are frequently held on the grounds. He declined to say who made the request.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation based in Madison, Wisconsin, said Tuesday it would request a counter-display if the Nativity is approved.

The displays would have to be taken down daily.