WASHINGTON - As Christmas approaches, the debate over the proper role of the holiday in society is taking place, with some Christian legal groups and organizations taking active roles to defend even secular displays of the season such as Christmas trees. A new book also weighs in on the issue.
John Gibson, host of The Big Story talk show on the Fox News Channel has written a book called The War on Christmas, which has an extended title that says "How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought.
The book's description lists several examples of how a phrase such as "Merry Christmas," participation by Christians in decorating public displays, instrumental versions of Christmas carols and the mention the religious history of Christmas in a class project have proved to be controversial.
In promoting his book, Gibson was recently invited to the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington D.C. to speak briefly about some examples from his book. He was introduced to those in attendance by the pro-family Christian groups President, Tony Perkins.
Afterwards, Gibson spoke with the Christian Post about his views. He indicated that his approach to the book and the issue from a perspective of respect.
Ive always been very respectful of people who do take their religion seriously and practice it, he said.
The following are excerpts from his comments.
Regarding this war on Christmas, are the people who are actually carrying it out a very small group or is it bigger than we think?
Well I think its bigger than we think in the sense that it includes a lot of teachers. It includes a lot of public educators. It includes organized secularists. If you look at the brief that was filed in the Ten Commandments case and you look at all of the organized atheists, I didnt know there were that many.
Its not the smallest group in the world. Its not huge. Its not the majority of the country by any means. But its more people than we think.
Christians have been much more active in recent years in litigating things that they see as injustices, probably more so than before. Why is that?
I think Christians have been very patient in forbearing in watching their truly religious symbols banned from public places nativity scenes, crosses and so forth. They dont really mind sharing the bench, moving over, creating some room. But what they found is that theyre getting pushed off the bench. That if they give a little ground, they just get pushed farther and farther.
And I think theyre beginning to realize when they see that even the secular symbols of their holiday are under attack, they go, Wait a minute. This is going too far. Weve been good about this with the religious symbols in public places but now if youre going to declare a Christmas tree a religious symbol when I know its not. Thats my religion. I know its not. Now Im starting to understand that something important is going on.
And so yes, I think they are pushing back.
Do you agree?
Yes, I think so. And I think it has been very effective because it gets a lot of attention. I think in America that the way most people unfortunately think is that you need to sue.
In this country, if you want to solve something you get a lawyer. And whats really going on now is Christians have lawyers. Here, Jerry Falwell and the ADF (Alliance Defense Fund) have 1,500 lawyers to defend Christmas for free. Its harder for the ACLU to roll over some school board when theres a lawyer there who says no. It makes a difference.
[note: The Alliance Defense Fund announced that it had 800 lawyers willing to work freely for the groups Christmas Project which is meant to defend religious freedom. The Liberty Counsel, another Christian legal group, joined with the Rev. Falwell for that organizations Friend or Foe Christmas campaign which has a reported 750 lawyers.]
Do you approach writing this book from a Christian perspective? Or just from a perspective of protecting freedom of religion?
Well, both. Ill tell what you my history is. I was kind of born a lapsed Catholic. My mother was raised in a convent and wouldnt let me near the church when I was a kid but I was around lots and lots of Christian people. So Ive always been very respectful of people who do take their religion seriously and practice it. But more importantly, in all the demonizing of Christians that has gone on, Ive found its very uncomfortable because Ive spent my life around them and I dont find them threatening.