Home Christmas Under Attack

The owner of a New Jersey business is facing thousands of dollars in possible fines after he refused to remove a 40-foot tall inflatable Santa Claus from his rooftop.

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Santa us up on the rooftop of Seasonal World, owned by Tony Schiavone in Millstone Township. He told television station WNYW  that he’s been hit with at least five tickets from town officials who believe the yuletide decoration violates the law.

“There is no ordinance or development agreement that says I can’t display it,” Schiavone told WNYW. “It’s what I do every year. I’ve been doing it for 12 years and they’ve basically been harassing me for 12 years.”

Mayor Nancy Grbelja said she fears that Santa might become dislodged from the roof and pose a danger to the community.

“It’s big and it’s a hazard,” she said.

But Schiavone said Santa isn’t going anywhere — noting the large decoration is bolted to the building — and weighted down with sandbags.

The mayor told the Asbury Park Press that businesses are expected to follow the rules – and the giant Santa is against the rules.

Residents seem to be siding with Schiavone.

“Oh give me a break,” Catherine Guarrieri told the Asbury Park Press. “For goodness sake. With all the problems facing our state, someone is going to complain about Santa?”

Residents of a senior adult apartment complex in California staged a protest after the management of their building announced a ban on Christmas trees and menorahs in communal areas.

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“We’re all angry,” resident Fern Scheel told the Los Angeles Daily News.“We want that tree. Where’s our freedom? This is ridiculous.”

Photo by the Los Angeles Daily News

JB Partners Group sent a memorandum to The Willows in Newhall, Calif. ordering them to remove the Christmas tree from the community room because they deemed it a religious symbol, the newspaper reported.

Two dozen residents held a protest rally and placed a sign on the tree that read, “Please Save Our Tree.”

“We could put out Easter baskets, have turkey for Thanksgiving but no tree for Christmas because it has Christ’s name in the beginning of Christmas,” resident Edna Johnson said.

JB Partners Group owns apartments in California, Oklahoma and Colorado. They did not return calls seeking comment.

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A British primary school has created a yuletide uproar after telling parents they would no longer be able to donate homemade treats to the annual Christmas fair unless they had government certification.

Officials at Gleadless Primary School in England sent a letter to parents warning them of the new regulations, the Daily Mail reported.

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“Due to new regulations, we can only accept donations of homemade cakes and buns from people who have a food and hygiene certificate,” wrote Valerie Fowles, the head-teacher at the school.

Parents told The Daily Mail they were stunned by the news.

“It’s absolutely bonkers,” one father told the newspaper. “It’s been a tradition for years — even when I was a kid — to take homemade buns and cakes to school for Christmas.”

Government officials said they would review the policy in light of the parental outrage.

By Todd Starnes

Good Grief!

A Little Rock church has cancelled a student matinee performance of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” after critics complained the show was too religious and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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“It is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way,” said Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church, in a statement to Fox News. “While we regret the loss of students who will not get this particular opportunity right now, we have taken the school matinees off the table.”

The cancellation came as the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers told television station KATV they had received legal advice on pursuing a possible lawsuit against the Little Rock School District.

“We’re not waging a war,” said LeeWood Thomas, a spokesman for the group. “We’re basically calling a foul against the separation of church and state.”

A spokesperson for the school district told Fox News they had absolutely nothing to do with the cancellation of the performance. They said they had consulted with their legal team and determined the field trip was appropriate.

Students at Terry Elementary School had been planning to attend a school-day field trip to watch a stage version of the holiday classic — hosted by the church. The event was strictly voluntary and teachers sent home letters explaining the purpose of the trip.

However, a parent objected to the field trip and contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, a self-described community of atheists, agnostics and humanists.

“The problem is that it’s got religious content and it’s being performed in a religious venue and that doesn’t just blur the line between church and state — it oversteps it entirely,” attorney Anne Orsi told Arkansas Matters. “We’re not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown.”

Orsi is vice-president of the organization. She told television station KNWA that the concerned parent did not want to be identified.

“The parents that we know in this this situation are reluctant to speak up because they are concerned about their kids being singled out and bullied,” she told the television station.

The story brought national attention to the plight of church members — who simply wanted to put on a special holiday presentation for school children.

Caldwell praised what he called the “courageous stand” that the school’s principal took in “not succumbing to the pressure of one complaint voice to the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers and the media.”

He said it was clear “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” did not pose a constitutional issue.

“Christmas is a Christian holiday — hence it’s name – Christmas,” the pastor wrote in his statement. “Our program addresses its origins with light-hearted songs and theatre. The context of the birth of Christ is broadly described in both Old and New Testament texts.”

The pastor said the school children are more than welcome to attend weekend performances of the show.

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By Todd Starnes

Chuck Anderson is mad.

“They’re taking the Christ out of Christmas,” he told Fox News. “And it’s time for Christians to take a stand.”

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The flashpoint in this Christmas controversy is the tiny town of Cottondale, located in the Florida panhandle.

For the past 30 years, a Nativity scene has been erected on the front lawn of Cottondale Elementary School. But now the annual holiday tradition has been abandoned – over fears that the Baby Jesus might somehow violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Principal Brenda Jones told television station WJHG the decision to keep Baby Jesus in the closet came after an official with the Dept. of Education dropped by to discuss the separation of church and state.

“The Dept. of Education came in and talked to us about the legalities of religion in the school systems and the separation of the two,” Jones told the television station.

In an attempt to be fair to everyone, the principal said, “We decided that we would just not put the Nativity scene out on campus.”

Officials with the Jackson County School Board did not return calls seeking comment.

But former board member Betty Duffee told the Jackson County Floridan that she believes the principal had no choice.

“There are people in the community that are threatening to sue the school board (over separation of church and state issues), and it costs a tremendous amount of money to defend something you know you will lose,” she said.

“It’s not that we’re against it; it’s just that the federal law prohibits it,” she said.

Residents like Chuck Anderson are fuming over the decision – accusing the school system of trading Christ for Frosty.

“You’ll see Frosty the Snowman but you will not see anything related to Christ,” he said. “School employees are not allowed to say Merry Christmas. They’re not allowed to display anything that relates to Christ or religion in Christmas.”

Frosty the Snowman is there — and so is Santa Claus.

But the Baby Jesus is stuffed inside a closet at Cottondale Elementary School — leaving many residents of this small town in the Florida panhandle outraged.

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The Nativity scene had been a part of the school’s holiday lawn decorations for years. But this year the yuletide display is strictly secular.

Principal Brenda Jones told television station WJHG the decision to keep Baby Jesus in the closet came after an official with the Dept. of Education dropped by to discuss the separation of church and state.

“The Dept. of Education came in and talked to us about the legalities of religion in the school systems and the separation of the two,” Jones told the television station.

In an attempt to be fair to everyone, the principal said, “We decided that we would just not put the Nativity scene out on campus.”

The decision has sparked controversy among the 869 residents who live in this gulf coast community.

Officials with the Jackson County School Board did not return calls seeking comment.

 

But former board member Betty Duffee told the Jackson County Floridan that she believes the principal had no choice.

“There are people in the community that are threatening to sue the school board (over separation of church and state issues), and it costs a tremendous amount of money to defend something you know you will lose,” she said.

“It’s not that we’re against it; it’s just that the federal law prohibits it,” she said.

Duffee told the newspaper that the decision not to display the Nativity is a “tragic thing.”

“I know it’s hard to see this happen, because it feels like we’re losing a freedom, but this is the state of affairs in this nation,” she said.

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By Todd Starnes

A federal court ruled that a Michigan family has a constitutional right to display a public Nativity scene, marking an end to a four-year court battle that started when militant secularists objected to the 60-year-old tradition.

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“Every December, militant secularists declare war on Christmas celebrations,” said Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center. “This is one battle they lost.”

The Law Center represented John Satawa, of Warren, Mich. Since 1945 his family had erected a Nativity display on a public median in their town.

In 2008 the Macomb County Road Commission received a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation – claiming the display violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

The following year, the county denied Satawa’s Nativity permit because it “displays a religious message.” That denial led to a four-year court battle that culminated with a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the display.

A spokesman for the roads commission told Fox News they will not appeal the ruling – and will grant Satawa a permit for the display.

As far as the county is concerned – the case is closed.

“We’re very pleased for him and very pleased we were able to win a battle in this war on Christmas,” Thompson said.

He said the court victory marks a major defeat for the Freedom From Religion Foundation – a group he called “militant secularists.”

He said the group targets small towns – searching for any public displays of religion.

“It goes around looking for Christian symbols they can attack,” Thompson said. “They send threatening letters to towns.”

Thompson said their victory should serve as a beacon of hope for communities across the nation facing threats from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“If you fight – you can win these court battles,” he said.

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By Todd Starnes

A town in central Kansas that was founded more than 100 years ago by immigrants escaping religious persecution — is once again facing religious persecution.

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The tiny town of Buhler is being forced to remove a religious cross from its town seal after a group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained that the symbol violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The group said the cross indicated government endorsement of Christianity.

The group also threatened to sue unless a large billboard featuring the cross was removed from a city park.

Mayor Daniel Friesen told Fox News that concerns over the lawsuit were the deciding factor in removing the cross and redesigning the seal.

“If we would have been sued, we would likely lose,” he said. “It’s not an issue of appeasing this fringe group. It’s a matter of protecting the community of Buhler from this organization. We’ve got to take the high road.”

Friesen said it was a matter of economics – and would be a waste of taxpayer money.

“We are frustrated,” he said. “Regardless of the decision we made, we think there’s going to be some good things to come out of it. Our community is too strong and we are too good to let this thing have a negative impact on our community.”

The mayor said the town seal was the result of a competition held in 1988 to mark Buhler’s centennial. The town of 1,350 people was founded by Mennonite immigrants who were seeking refuge from religious persecution.

The irony is not lost on the mayor.

“It’s a faith-based community — always has been,” he said. “The community has never pushed (their faith) on anybody else – but they felt the cross was a good representation.”

Residents were informed of the city’s decision by email.

“I believe I can speak for all of the members of the city council in saying that on a personal level we are utterly disappointed and frustrated by this matter,” the mayor wrote. “We recognize the significant and important history reflected in the current city seal and certainly want to do nothing to forget this history. At the same time, we as city leaders took an oath to uphold the Constitution.  These same Constitutional rights which drew the first settlers to Buhler bring these changes to our city seal today.”

Many local residents expressed their frustration and their disappointment on the town’s Facebook page.
“It really saddens me that the minority has finally bullied their way into Buhler,” one resident wrote. “My husband and I chose Buhler when moving from Kansas City with a job transfer because of that sign in the park and the fact that it did have a cross on it because it showed us we were moving into a strong Christian community.”
“How sad,” another resident wrote. “I grew up there and have a hard time believing someone is doing this to Buhler.”

The mayor told Fox News he understands their frustrations and called it justifiable.

“A lot of people feel like the rich history of Buhler is being stomped on,” he said. “I know it disappoints some people but there are other ways to deal with this.”

With reporting from Associated Press 

By Todd Starnes

A North Carolina community college has been accused of violating the First Amendment rights of students after they told a club they could not use the word “Christmas” to promote a Christmas tree sale.

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“It’s ridiculous that anyone would have to think twice about using the word ‘Christmas’ as part of a Christmas tree sale,” said Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom.

ADF sent a letter to officials at Western Piedmont Community College urging them to either reconsider their decision to censor the word “Christmas” – or else face a possible lawsuit.

College officials did not return multiple phone calls and email messages seeking comment.

The student club, called the BEST Society, was planning to sell the Christmas trees to raise money for Angel Tree, an organization that provides Christmas presents to children.

Club members followed college protocol and submitted forms to promote the sale. The proposed text read, “The BEST Society will be selling Christmas Trees…”

But when the announcement appeared on the college’s website and in other venues – it had been altered. Ever reference to “Christmas Trees” had been replaced with “holiday trees.”

Attorney Sharp said students immediately contacted the college’s community relations director to find out what happened.

The community relations director allegedly told the students, “We cannot market your trees in association solely with a Christian event.”

As a result of the change, the club began receiving complaints from the community – and some customers told the students they would not purchase trees because of the change in wording.

“Not only is it perfectly constitutional to use the word ‘Christmas,’ it is unconstitutional to prohibit use of it,” Sharp said. “This is another perfect example of the immense misunderstanding that far too many college officials have about what the First Amendment truly requires.”

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By Todd Starnes

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has pulled the plug on the state’s annual tree lighting ceremony one year after he created a yuletide controversy by changing its name to a “holiday” tree.

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The governor’s spokeswoman did not give a reason for the decision. But last year his office was flooded with thousands of telephone calls protesting the name change. Many citizens accused the Independent governor of trying to secularize Christmas.

At the time, Chafee said the name change was meant to honor the state’s origin as a sanctuary of religious tolerance.

Last year State Rep. Doreen Costa launched what became an act of yuletide defiance — she brought her own Christmas tree and held a protest lighting. Costa said she is going to do the same thing this year.

“I’m sick of being politically correct,” she told Fox News. “Nobody’s been offended by calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. If we have a Menorah in the State House, what are we going to call it – a candle with sticks?”

Costa said she just shook her head when she learned the governor called off the tree lighting ceremony. She said was overwhelmed by calls and email from citizens wanting to stage a protest tree-lighting.

“So let’s celebrate the Christmas season with a Christmas tree lighting,” she said.

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Rhode Islanders are using social networking sites to voice their opinions on the controversy.

“The next Governor’s election, can’t get here fast enough,” wrote a reader on the Providence Journal website. “Chaffee has been nothing but a total insult to the vast majority of Rhode Islanders.”

In lieu of a tree-lighting ceremony, the governor’s office said student glee clubs will participate in a series of Statehouse concerts.

With reporting from Associated Press