(Photo: Reuters/Fabian Bimmer)
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is gearing up for the so-called "War on Christmas" this year by promoting products to help nonbelievers celebrate the winter solstice.
"Most people think December is strictly for Christians and view the solstice as an intrusion, when actually it's the other way around," Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, said in a statement. "People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the natural holiday from all of us humans."
The Madison, Wis.-based organization said in a press release that winter solstice is "the real reason for the season." FFRF is selling, among other things, 14 varieties of winter solstice greeting cards that say things like "Reason's Greetings" and "Yes, Virginia . . . There Is No God" and more.
The group is also promoting items such as Bible warning stickers, "debaptismal certificates" and "Heathen's Greetings" non-tracts, which are small brochures that attempt to address "myths" about religion or freethought.
FFRF has also been known to challenge the legality of Christmas displays erected on public property. Last year the city of Alsip, Ill., for example, ended a nearly 35-year-old tradition of displaying a "Holiday Cross" on the city's water tower after receiving a letter from FFRF that said the cross display was unconstitutional.
Another Christmas controversy was stirred up in New Jersey recently when Constance J. Bauer, superintendent of Bordentown Regional School District, banned religious Christmas carols from the holiday concerts normally held by the district's elementary schools. After listening to other legal considerations and the concerns of the community, however, she announced on the district's website that they will once again allow songs with "traditional and historical religious origins."
Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a blog post that school officials, like those in Bordentown, often have a misunderstanding of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause due in part to "misinformation and intimidation" spread by groups like FFRF and the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Ironically, when schools overreach on religious issues they can violate the Establishment Clause in a different way: by exhibiting hostility toward religion," wrote Tedesco. "FFRF and similar groups often complain that including religious Christmas songs at school concerts sends a message of religious endorsement to the audience. In addition to being legally incorrect, the FFRF's recommended action-banning all religious Christmas music-actually requires schools to be hostile to religion and send the unequivocal message to Christians that expressions of their religious and cultural traditions are unacceptable at school."
Some have said the "War on Christmas" is an imagined attack on the Christian holiday, but a Public Policy Polling survey of 500 registered voters conducted last December suggests most voters, at least, believe it is a real issue.
Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said they believe a War on Christmas exists, as compared to 40 percent who do not and 13 percent who are unsure.