War on Christmas: Atheists Neutralizing Christianity?

A Catholic civil rights group says that the attempt by atheist activists to remove nativity scenes and faith-related symbols from the public square during Christian holidays is proof that they have targeted Christianity.

Catholic League nativity scene display at New York City's Central Park, December 2011.
Catholic League nativity scene display at New York City's Central Park, December 2011. | (Photo: Catholic League)
Christmas decorations light up the outside of Macy's department store in Herald Square, New York December 2, 2011.
Christmas decorations light up the outside of Macy's department store in Herald Square, New York December 2, 2011. | (Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Burton)


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The Catholic League, considered the denomination’s largest civil rights organization in the U.S., stated on its website that the “War on Christmas” is getting “crazy.”

League President Bill Donohue said that because atheist activists often become most visible in their actions against Christian symbolism during the Christmas and Easter seasons, it “is proof that their real hatred is of all things Christian.”

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Donahue compared the recent actions of atheists inside the governments of foreign countries to the atheists in the U.S.

“North Korea is putting South Korea on notice, warning of ‘unexpected consequences’ if Seoul displays Christmas lights near the border. In China last week, government officials and the police smashed the sound equipment of Christians who were about to celebrate Christmas in a village outside Beijing,” Donahue explained.

“Our atheists share the same mindset, if not the same means,” he said.

League spokesman Jeff Field told The Christian Post that his group reports on the “War on Christmas” every year, but this year there appears to be more resistance by some Christians against groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The Wisconsin-based FFRF recently became embroiled in several controversies in U.S. cities and counties in its attempts to remove nativity scene displays from government property. The atheist group has also tried, and in some cases succeeded, in placing banners mocking Christianity close to public Christmas displays.

Field said that he believes most atheists are tolerant and “go about their lives like you and I do, but then there are these atheist activists that are out there to neutralize Christianity through various campaigns, such as the ones from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.”

He added, “This year there’s a sign of a push back from the pro-Christmas people. There is some sort of fight back.”

Last Saturday, an estimated 5,000 people rallied in Athens, Texas, to support a Nativity display in opposition to FFRF’s request that Henderson County remove the display.

Pastors in New Haven, Conn., spoke out last week after a vandal burned a Bible and damaged the electrical wires that powered the lights on a Christmas tree downtown.

“There is more than a war on Christmas going on in America. This is a war on Christ,” Todd Foster, pastor of Church on the Rock in New Haven, told The Christian Post earlier. “The burning of a Bible underneath a Christmas tree was more than just a 'bah humbug' of a modern day Scrooge. It was a direct assault upon the holiday's religious foundation as the sentimental (rather than historical) commemoration of the birth of Christ.”

Even more Christian leaders have vowed to take a stand against threats by atheists. Open-air preacher Ray Comfort said he will purposefully begin evangelistic campaigns in areas of the U.S. where atheist organizations file or threaten lawsuits in their attempt to remove Christian references from public property.

Field recommends that Christians know the law when it comes to battling for religious displays on government land.

At issue in these cases is whether religious displays on public property are a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

 War on Christmas and Everything Christian

Some, such as FFRF, take a “high wall separationist” view of the establishment clause, arguing that there can be no cooperation between religious groups and government whatsoever. Others, such as supporters of Nativity scenes on government property, take a “low wall separationist” view, arguing that, while the government cannot show preferences for a particular religion, the establishment clause does not require eliminating all religious references from the public square.

Field said that the atheist activist groups' interpretation of the establishment clause is “an old and tired argument.”

“They use this argument thinking that there is this absolute separation of church and state when in fact we can put up our nativity scene on public property when right next to it can be the world’s largest menorah,” he said.

“They are correct in that government shouldn’t endorse a religion, but at the same time they shouldn’t appeal to discriminating against religion as long as the symbols are appropriate and fits the time and the manner.”

“A great majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and [the atheists] have nothing to celebrate so it’s a way for them to wedge into our beliefs,” Field added. “They will not be happy until they neutralize religion altogether.”

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