Dec 19, 2005

Religious Right groups and their allies in the right-wing media insist that a “war on Christmas” is under way in America but a new analysis of alleged examples of bias against Christmas shows more hype than hard facts, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United staff members researched the “war on Christmas” incidents cited most frequently by Religious Right leaders and found them to be based in myth, not fact. For details, read the AU report, “The Religious Right’s Phony ‘War on Christmas’: Mything In Action.”

“This isn’t a war on Christmas it’s not even a skirmish,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “When the facts are exposed, the Religious Right’s ‘war on Christmas’ melts faster than a snowman on an 80-degree day.”

Among the incidents debunked by Americans United is a tale frequently told by Fox News Channel commentator John Gibson. In Gibson’s new book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought, he asserts that the public schools in Plano, Texas, have banned students from wearing green and red clothes. The story has been reported uncritically in other media outlets and hyped by Bill O’Reilly but it is apparently untrue.

A spokeswoman for the Plano schools told Americans United that the district has no such policy and expressed frustration that the story continues to circulate. The Plano Independent School District has posted an item on its website denying the rumor. A similar claim about public schools in Saginaw Township, Mich., is also false.

Another story that has surfaced in the media centers on a public school in Wisconsin that allegedly banned songs having a religious “motive or theme” from this year’s holiday program. Officials at the Glendale-River Hills School District have posted a notice on the district website debunking the claim. It points out that songs used this year include “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “I Saw Three Ships.”

“The Religious Right is using the season of peace and goodwill to press a radical political agenda and divide the American people,” said Lynn. “Santa should leave big lumps of coal in their stockings.”