Yesterday Fox News and Glenn Beck’s website “The Blaze” reported that a public school in Bulloch County, Ga., had banned Christmas cards. According to the Beck site, this was done because earlier this year Americans United had demanded that the school order teachers to “curtail religious expression while teaching.”
The story was soon appearing on right-wing blogs and making a splash on social media. There was a big problem with it, however: It wasn’t true.
Americans United did write to education officials in Bulloch County back in April. That letter had nothing to do with Christmas cards. It was in response to a complaint we received concerning high school football coaches and band directors leading students in prayer at school events, which is a clear constitutional no-no.
According to the far right’s creative re-telling of the incident, school officials in Bulloch County were so terrified by Americans United that they immediately removed all religious references from the school, even things that aren’t a problem. Soon, a beloved tradition of teachers pasting the personal Christmas cards they had received on a poster in the hallway of Brooklet Elementary School was axed.
Here’s what really happened: The poster (which doesn’t even have any Christmas cards on it yet – let’s get real, it’s only Dec. 5) was moved because one of the teachers raised a privacy concern. The poster is now in a faculty work room.
Superintendent Charles Wilson told WSAV-TV that the Fox News story, by Fox Radio commentator Todd Starnes, has created headaches for his school system. His office has received a flood of outraged calls and emails.
Wilson pointed out that no one from Fox News actually called the school to get its side of the story.
“We are trying hard in this community to have a good, healthy dialogue,” said Wilson. He criticized “the intentional spreading of this misinformation” and added, “I see it as destructive.”
Wilson also issued a statement to set the record straight. It reads in part, “Bulloch County Schools nor BES's administrators have not, nor do they plan to remove any student’s learning experiences about Christmas or any other seasonal holiday. Students returned Monday from Thanksgiving break, and already students’ holiday artwork is going up on bulletin boards, walls and doorways.”
Teacher Becky Petkewich echoed Wilson’s concerns. “I just couldn’t believe that someone would make up some things like that,” she said.
Oh, I can. It’s business as usual for the “War-on-Christmas”-obsessed crowd at Fox News. They’re so determined to fight this conflict that every year at this time they conjure it up – even when it doesn’t exist.
It has come to the point that whenever I hear one of these tales of yuletide outrage, I just sit back and wait for the other Christmas stocking to drop. I know that sooner or later it’s likely to be exposed as a lie. The right-wing media’s track record here is nothing short of abysmal.
Anyone who watches Christmas movies knows that Santa Claus can work miracles. I’ve got a whopper of a request for him: Please, St. Nick, can you get these people to just shut up so we can enjoy the holidays in peace?
Failing that, unleash Krampus. I think he could teach these faux Christmas warriors a thing or two.