Tomorrow is Thanksgiving – which means it’s time for the Religious Right to start carping about the so-called “war on Christmas.”
Actually, there have already been several developments in this alleged war. As an unwilling combatant, I’d like to give you a little round-up of the action so far.
First off, the American Family Association (AFA) has released its annual “Naughty Or Nice” list of retailers. Traditionally, release of this list, which the AFA published on Nov. 15, marks the beginning of the annual Religious Right whine-fest about the war on Christmas.
Here’s how the list works: Obsessive types at the AFA who obviously have way too much time on their hands pore over print and web ads from stores and count up the number of times the word “Christmas” appears.
Companies that use “Christmas” consistently are nice. Retailers that don’t use the term much or not at all are naughty. Some companies are in between. It’s all color coded for your convenience.
Again, I wish to point out that the AFA actually undertakes this project every year. This is not a parody designed to make fundamentalists look silly. (Note that Victoria’s Secret is AGAINST Christmas. That company is naughty in more ways than one!)
Our second item deals with a flap in Santa Monica, Calif., where a large display depicting the nativity of Jesus had been erected for several years. Last year, an atheist group requested the right to use the space too, so city officials decided to hold a lottery. Atheist groups won most of the spaces in 2011, and there was some discontent over this – mainly, intolerant residents trashed the atheist displays. This year, the city has decided to shut down the forum rather than host any displays.
In response, a pro-nativity group filed a lawsuit attempting to force the city to host its religious cyclorama. Not surprisingly, this didn’t go down too well. A federal court rejected the overture.
I appeared on Fox News Channel on Monday to discuss this issue. My debating partner, Tammy Bruce, a far-right radio talk show host, argued that non-believers have nothing to worry about because every public space that doesn’t include a religious symbol is promoting atheism. I know – it didn’t make sense to me either. (Bruce also derided atheists as nihilists who just need to get over themselves.)
To sum up: Santa Monica officials set up a neutral forum for parceling out access to a public space. Atheist groups played by the rules, used the forum and legally won most of the slots. The city decided to shut down the forum rather than deal with all of this fuss. The right wing’s answer to that was to file a lawsuit arguing that it’s just not fair. The government has to host its symbols!
So far, they aren’t getting away with it.
Finally, everyone’s favorite holiday elf, Pat Robertson, is spreading tidings of comfort and joy to all – except those lousy atheists.
According to Bro. Pat, “miserable atheists” are plotting and scheming to “steal [Christmas] away from you.”
Continued the mercurial TV preacher, “Atheists don’t like our happiness. They don’t want you to be happy; they want you to be miserable. They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable.”
Gee, Pat, too much fruitcake?
Americans United is a multi-faith, multi-philosophy organization. Some of our members are devout believers, while others don’t believe. We all get along because we operate with mutual respect and don’t make crude generalizations about one another. Pat, you could learn a few things from AU members.
I know it’s early, but I’d like to wish a big “Happy Holidays” to the staff of the American Family Association, the pro-nativity gang in Santa Monica and Pat Robertson. I’d also like to advise them all that if they really want an old-fashioned Christmas with a lot of religious trimmings the logical place to find that is a church, not city hall.
P.S. “The Wall of Separation” will be on hiatus until Monday. If you’d like something thoughtful to read tomorrow, check out this post from 2007 by AU Communications Director Joe Conn. Happy Thanksgiving!