We’ve yet to devour our Thanksgiving turkeys, but our friends in the Religious Right are already itching to gin up this year’s claims of a “war on Christmas.”

Liberty Counsel, a group of fundamentalist Christian attorneys best known for championing the stunts of soon-to-be former Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis, is determined to make us use the appropriate, religiously correct terminology this year. Its annual “Naughty and Nice Retail List” for 2018 is designed to punish retailers who fail to toe the line.

The creation of such lists has become a popular pastime for what I call the “Christmas Police,” the strident fundamentalists who insist there’s only one way to celebrate the December holiday – theirs! Basically, Liberty Counsel assigns someone – probably an unfortunate intern – to visit store websites and tally up the number of times they see the word “Christmas” versus terms like “holiday” or “season.” This person, who, let’s face it, probably needs to get out of the house more often, also monitors the goods on sale. Is the store in question selling nativity scenes? What about Christmas trees? (I have given up trying to explain to groups like Liberty Counsel that Christmas trees don’t have a Christian origin.)

From this research, a list is compiled with stores being labeled either “nice” or “naughty.” 

Slight problem, though: The list is incoherent. Sometimes a mention of Christmas is enough to get a store a passing grade, and sometimes it’s not. Thus, Kohl’s is lauded because the “use of the word Christmas is very prominent and there are also many items depicting the Nativity scene,” and Sears makes a passing grade, but just barely: “Overall, Christmas is mentioned but the word and references to Christ could stand to be more prominent.”

But poor Target is slapped with a “Naughty” designation, even though it uses the word “Christmas.” The problem is that it doesn’t use it enough. (The retailing giant gets berated for its “references to ‘seasonal ugly sweaters.’” So it would have been better to call them “ugly Christmas sweaters”?) Burlington Coat Factory employs “Christmas-themed products” but gets slammed anyway for a “severe lack of Christmas advertising with biblical meaning.” Lord & Taylor inserts “‘Christmas’ language into their products and marketing,” but too bad! The store is still “Naughty” because it “falls short of portraying what the Christmas season is about. Their reindeers and printed Santas hide the love of the Nativity and reason for gift giving.”

Let me get this straight: A company can use the word “Christmas” and sell lots of Christmas merchandise and still fail? It also has to somehow affirmatively promote a Christian message? When did that goalpost get moved?

I can’t help but snicker at Liberty Counsel’s antics. These are corporations we’re talking about. Big Businesses. They want to make money. If Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association and other members of the Christmas Police actually expect faceless, bottom-line-obsessed corporations to lift up the religious aspects of Christmas for them, they’re bound to be disappointed.   

The Religious Right keeps looking for God in all the wrong places. Remember, these are the same people who have in the past griped about decorations on Starbucks cups and moaned because minimum-wage clerks struggling to get by dared to utter “Happy Holiday” at the register instead of the religiously correct “Merry Christmas.”   

These delicate little snowflakes whose holiday can be utterly ruined if they see the wrong words on CVS’s website are confused. They spent years trying to find a place for the baby Jesus at city hall, and now they’re trying to force him into the aisles of box stores.

A little unsolicited advice: Seek him elsewhere. A church might be a good place to start.