The Electric Commentary

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More "War On Christmas" Hooey

Ed Brayton has two posts exposing some high profile conservative scare stories for the myths that they are. The first one is a point by point refutation of several stories that are being pushed by Bill O'Reilly:

Lie #2: The Plano, Texas school system tells students they can't wear green and red clothing:

O'REILLY: In Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas, the school told students they couldn't wear red and green because they were Christmas colors. That's flat-out fascism. If I were a student in Plano, I'd be a walking Christmas tree after that order. Have a little thing on my head.

False. The school district issued the following statement:

"The school district does not restrict students or staff from wearing certain color clothes during holiday times or any other school days," noted Dr. Otto, who said that the school district's attorney has requested that Mr. O'Reilly retract the statement.

Dr. Otto said that attorneys have requested of Mr. O'Reilly that, in the future, he ask his fact checkers to do a more thorough job of confirming the facts before he airs them. "It would be our hope that you would engage in fair and balanced reporting of this nationally recognized school district in the future," wrote PISD's attorney.

The second post destroys a widely circulating myth about a Wisconsin School rewriting and secularizing the words of "Silent Night:"

There's just one problem - it's all a bunch of crap. Totally false. Here's the truth:

Diane Messer, administrator of the Dodgeville School District, said the holiday show is titled "The Little Tree's Christmas Gift'' and was copyrighted in 1988. It's about a family that goes to buy a Christmas tree and uses a collection of familiar Christmas carol melodies to tell the story.

"Somebody totally misunderstood and had the belief that one of our teachers took it upon herself to rewrite the words to 'Silent Night,''' she said. "This program is well within our district's policy which allows us the use of both religious and secular content in our curriculum and in our productions and performances.''

Messer said the program has been performed "several times'' over the last 18 years and the school district has no immediate plans to address the Liberty Counsel's concerns.

"It's a misunderstanding and people have drawn all sorts of absurd conclusions from it,'' she said.

The Little Tree's Christmas Gift is a Christmas play often performed both in schools and churches around the country. It was written by a church choir director, in fact. Is it part of some grand anti-Christmas conspiracy? Judge for yourself.

Head on over to Ed's place and judge for yourself.


  • J Selleck said...
    Mr Noonan:
    Regarding the banning of colors, along with other signs of Christmas, I am referencing the following lawsuit...not Bill O'Reilly.
    Sounds to me like your reference is doing some serious back-pedaling. Be this as it may, we ARE experiencing tremendous amounts of ignorance and hostility in our school systems regarding religious/secular issues. Christmas discrimination is just one example. For a partial listing go to
    As for the school play, I'll give you that. Sounds like over zealous reporting by Fox to me. This wouldn't be so believable, if it wasn't for all the other attempts out there, to ban Christmas music.

    1:19 PM

    J Selleck said...
    Mr. Noonan:
    Thank you for your references, which I looked up. I note the following observations:
    While the Plano Supt. says they don't tell students what to wear, the lawsuit references decorations and other items. It seems something is going on here, does it not?
    The "Christmas Tree" play on the surface is an innocuous little play about hope and love, but apparently makes no reference to Christ himself. Even the attempt to take familiar tunes, and rewrite the words, seems intentioned to move in a secular direction. I also note the use of songs that are bereft of religious meaning (Deck The Halls) seems to do the same.
    This is bad education. To do a Christmas play...even using the word in the title, and not mention Christ, is kind of like doing a 4th of July performance without mentioning America. I would rather they go back to Frosty than try to secularize Christ, which is what this little play is doing. And by the way...being produced by a Choir Director is no guarantee of anything. Its like those infomercials for insane health products being endorsed by some doctor. The world is filled with folks that will do anything for a buck.

    By Blogger J Selleck, at 12:42 PM  

  • "To do a Christmas play...even using the word in the title, and not mention Christ, is kind of like doing a 4th of July performance without mentioning America."

    I think it's more like going trick-or-treating on Halloween. Things change. Sometimes it's for the better.

    By Blogger JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe, at 12:53 PM  

  • And thank you for including references as well. I agree that if it is the case that the school district banned these decorations, they should be reprimanded for it, and it would not be the first time that a school district did something so asinine. I am slightly skeptical about this particular complaint for a few reasons.

    First of all, it appears that the ADF has at the very least exagerated their claims (re: the clothing). This hurts their credibility regarding the rest of the complaint. This does not mean that there is nothing there, but it doesn't help there case.

    Also, just because a lawsuit is filed does not necessarily mean that there is anything there. It is easy to file a lawsuit. Moreover, If the school district banned decorations by the school, there is no Constitutional issue at stake. However, banning student action (candy canes and reindeer symbols) is a clear violation of the free excercise clause, (if it's true, of course.)

    As for the play, my only point is that there was no rewriting of Silent Night by the school, and that this song makes sense in the context in which it was being performed.

    I would have to disagree with you on your Christmas/4th of July analogy, simply because there are well established secular Christmas traditions (Santa, Reindeer, Tree, etc.) in addition to religious traditions, and I'm probably a more staunch (stauncher?) believer in the Establishment clause than you are. It would be bad history if there were no Santa, etc., but as it is this is not the case. Would you have a problem if they performed the very secular Dickens play, A Christmas Carol?

    The fact that it was written by a choir director is not dispositive, but it is a factor in my favor. As is the fact that it has been performed in churches.

    My only point is that there is likely no anti-religion malice here, and that it is being blown way out of proportion.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 1:05 PM  

  • Mr. Noonan:
    In regards to the play, I will agree there is no malice, and posting it on Bill O'Reilly is out of proportion.
    Probably what I'm getting at, is a larger issue, and that is how Christianity is handled in the public sphere, in regards to the evolving interpretation of the Establishment clause.
    For example, when one considers the incredible impact Christianity has had on every aspect of our society and Western culture for 2,000 years, and seeks to convey that impact in regards to history, culture, and sociology, at what point does it cease to be an Establishment issue, and is simply an issue of teaching one's history and culture?
    What I continually run into, is the use of the Establishment Clause as a weapon against religion...especially Christianity, and not a tool for preserving civil separation. Malice is often disguised as good citizenship. What one ends up with, are children in public schools, who have been insulated from a history and culture they should know, and ultimately, this is bad education. For example, I would want my children to understand Islam...not because I'm trying to set up a state religion, but because they are a large part of the current culture, and the makings of history. We treat religion, and especially Christianity, like a plague, to the detrement of good education and knowledge.
    And, yes, anybody can generate a lawsuit, but legal entities like the ACLU or the Allicance Defense Fund don't waste their time with frivilous lawsuits. Regardless of what the Plano Supt. said, I think there's more to the situation than meets the eye.
    My brother-in-law is a school superintendent, and unfortunately, many of their decisions are based on avoiding possible lawsuits. Bummer of a way to do education, but its a financial reality. They'd rather be cautious than right, and that grants a lot of power to people threatening lawsuits. I think that's how we got to this place, where saying "Merry Christmas" in the wrong context is viewed as a crime. We don't want to "offend," because offense can mean lawsuits and at the least, bad PR. Its time for public entities to make decisions based on good law, not bad fear.

    By Blogger J Selleck, at 5:40 PM  

  • I think that most of us will agree that this uber-PC holiday stuff is getting outa hand. But I do think there is a difference between teaching the cultural impacts of Christianity (like say, teaching Max Weber's "The Protestant Work Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism") and implying that Christianity is true are different things. Not that wearing red and green or putting on a play clearly falls into either category.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 5:55 PM  

  • May I add that as a Christian (one who believes the Bible is literally true, who could be described as a "fundamentalist") that I think some of this "anti-Christmas conspiracy" talk gets out of hand also.

    I don't feel threatened when someone says "Happy Holidays". Geez, Louise. I don't feel like boycotting a store because they don't use the word Christmas.

    What happened to "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to man?"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:45 PM  

  • Ironically, I beleive that the original point of Happy Holidays and all that was to be more inclusive. Excluding the predominant belief is not inclusive.

    That said, although many people are reacting to legitimate overdoing of things here, underneath Paul's point is that many Conservatives like O'Reilly are just stirring things up to use religion as a way to gain popularity for their cause and take attention away from all of the recent failures by Congress and the Administration.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 10:22 PM  

  • Let's not forget that holiday is a derivation of "holy day." In reality, one is saying Happy Holy Day."

    By Blogger J Selleck, at 12:12 AM  

  • I actually wrote, in an earlier post:

    and of course, I thought that when religious folks realized that the word "holiday" actually means "holy day," and is in fact quite religious, that they would be happy to think that they were pulling a fast one on everyone and stop complaining.

    I agree that there are those who take anti-Christmas rhetoric too far, and it is very unfortunate that many school districts end up being run by the fear of the lawsuit. I would agree that most of these issues would best be settled by people simply having thicker skin. On both sides.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:44 AM  

  • I wonder what the other Christians feel about my 9 year old daughter being made fun of because she doesn't believe in Santa Claus. The real problem here is that Christians should separate themeselves from Christmas. It has solely Pagan origins and we should let them have their holiday. The only reason we celebrate it at all is because the Pagan roman emporer wanted the wars between the Christians and the pagans to stop.

    All this zeolotry on both sides make me (and Jesus) vomit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:41 PM  

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