Nov 30, 2005

The Rev. Jerry Falwell and his Religious Right cohorts have been complaining for weeks now about government agencies and store clerks saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” but it looks like Falwell forgot to tell President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and the Republican National Committee about the preferred religiously correct greeting.

The White House’s 2005 holiday card is just out, and it doesn’t mention the word “Christmas” once.

The card, mailed under the auspices of the Republican National Committee and signed by the president and his wife, reads, “With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness 2005.” It also includes a passage from the Old Testament Book of Psalms.

The front cover is an artist’s rendition of the White House and grounds covered with snow while the presidential pets, two dogs and a cat, frolic on the lawn. It contains no religious symbolism.

“Have President Bush and the first lady joined the so-called war on Christmas?” asked the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Where are the howls of protest from Jerry Falwell? When will he stand up and save Christmas from this mean-spirited, anti-God attack?”

Lynn noted that Laura Bush piled on Monday during a White House ceremony unveiling a Christmas tree remarking, “Well, ‘all things bright and beautiful’ is the theme this year. I think it will be really bright and beautiful with this fabulous tree. But thank you all very much. Happy holidays.”

Asserted Lynn, “Laura Bush said, ‘Happy Holidays.’ This is intolerable! Where is Jerry Falwell?”

Two weeks before Halloween, Falwell attorneys called a press conference and threatened to sue public schools and government agencies that fail to acknowledge Christmas to Falwell’s liking. They have also been complaining about department stores and malls using “Happy Holidays” signs and greetings.

Most recently, Falwell went ballistic when the city of Boston issued a press release announcing the arrival of its “holiday tree.” Fox News Channel commentator Bill O’Reilly has jumped on the bandwagon, carping nearly every night about the alleged “war on Christmas.”

Lynn noted that Falwell and O’Reilly have yet to say one word about the president and first lady’s generic holiday greetings.

“Falwell calls his Christmas crusade ‘Friend or Foe,’” Lynn remarked. “He believes you either agree with him or you’re an enemy. When is he going to take on his latest foes the president and Mrs. Bush?”

Added Lynn, “In all seriousness, I think Falwell ought to be ashamed of himself. He’s using the season of peace and love to advance his narrow-minded political agenda, stir up community hostility and raise money. Just when I think he can go no lower, he surprises me and does.

“And for the record,” Lynn continued, “Americans United has never attacked Christmas. There is no war on Christmas. Americans are perfectly free to observe Christmas if they choose to do so. However, we do insist that government obey the Constitution and refrain from promoting religion.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.