War Against Christmas

Press Release

As many Canadians have heard, a Toronto judge recently ordered that a Christmas tree be removed from a courthouse on the grounds that its presence might offend some people. As many Canadians are also aware, a few years ago at the Manitoba legislature, the Christmas Tree was referred to as the “Multicultural Tree” before the Premier returned its name to the “Christmas Tree”.

To connect these incidents and to add some perspective to the issue from south of the border, Immigration Watch Canada sends you the following article (slightly edited): “No War Against Christmas? Tell That To The Grinches of Gotham!”

Please take special note of the following paragraph from the article. It draws the connection between many of the people who wage the war against Christmas and those who promote multiculturalism and mass immigration in both the U.S. and Canada.

“The War Against Christmas, and against Christianity in America, is part and parcel of the campaign to transform America, against the wishes of most Americans. It is of a piece with mass immigration. As Peter Brimelow (author of “Alien Nation”) says of immigration, America is being transformed against our will, and for no reason.”

Merry Christmas,
Immigration Watch Canada


No War Against Christmas? Tell That To The Grinches of Gotham!
By Howard Sutherland

The mainstream media loves to tell us there is no War Against Christmas (WAC).

Oh, really? All across the country, from now-you-see-em, now-you-dont, now-you-see-em-again “Holiday” Trees at Sea-Tac Airport to the august precincts of the Supreme Court, there are skirmishes going on in a war against something seasonaland maybe against something more.

Every year about this time, assorted secularists, cranks, ACLU fanatics and a growing variety of Scrooges of all sorts gird their alienated loins and sally forth to renew the WAC. The grinches have enjoyed enormous successes. Now, cowed employees offer each other a half-hearted “Happy Holidays” at their carefully ornament-free Christmas (oops, sorry, make that Holiday) Parties, instead of the more heartfelt “Merry Christmas!” of yore.

The more of these annual campaigns one observes, the plainer it becomes that the “War Against Christmas” is but a seasonal campaign in a year-round war against Christianity itself. It doesnt matter that Christianity was the faith of the people who settled the colonies and founded America, and that Christianity is still the professed faith of most Americans.

Nowhere is the War Against Christmas more apparent than in Skoros v. City of New York. This extraordinary but oddly unreported litigation shows how the nations largest public school system is deliberately eradicating any mention of what Christmas is about, while at the same time allowing Jewish and Muslim symbols. In effect, the New York City Department of Education is flagrantly reducing Christianity to a sort of ecumenical second-class citizenship behind Judaism and Islam. All religions are equal, but some are more equal than others.

In 2001, the New York City Department of Education promulgated a policy that permits the display in its schools of a menorah, in honor of Hanukkah, a crescent moon and star, because of Ramadan (even though Ramadan is usually long over by the time the “Holiday Season” starts), and a pine tree, in honor of what exactly? A Christmas nativity scene or crche of any kind is expressly forbidden.

The Department of Ed must have figured this was pretty safe, because the cowed Christians were unlikely to complain. They didnt count on Mrs. Andrea Skoros, a Roman Catholic mother of two sons in New York City public schools. Mrs. Skoros objected to the expulsion of Christian symbols from what are, after all, Christmas displays, while Jewish and Moslem religious symbols are given prominence. She also didnt appreciate her children being required to do coloring exercises filling in pictures of menorahs and learning the stories of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Ramadan, while the Christmas story was ruthlessly excised from the curriculum.

Mrs. Skoross attempts to get equal billing for her childrens faith were brushed off by Queens educrats. Unable to get the Department of Eds attention in any other way, Mrs. Skoros, with lawyering by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), took NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein [Send him email] and the Department to court. She contended that the suppression of Christmas in her sons schools Holiday Display violated the Constitutions Establishment Clause by discriminating against Christianity.

In argument at least as contemptuous of common sense as it is of Christianity, the Departments lawyers claimed that the menorah, crescent-and-star and Christmas trees are all purely secular symbols, while a crche is a purely religious symbol. Even they seemed to know what a ludicrous argument that is, so they bolstered it by asserting that the menorah and crescent-and-star commemorate historical events, while the crche does not!

It is certainly true that Hanukkah, with the menorah as its symbol, commemorates attested events at the end of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucids. I havent been able to find any specific Islamic event that the crescent-and-star is supposed to commemorate (neither could TMLC lead counsel Robert Muise when he looked into it). But the Gospels provide pretty strong attestations of what the crche commemorates. Even if one does not acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ, it is hard to deny that the New Testament is strong historical evidence of his birth and life, and the life of Christ is mentioned in other ancient sources, independent of the Bible.

Outrageous though the Department of Eds arguments were, Brooklyn Federal Judge Charles Sifton bought enough of them. In February 2004, Sifton upheld the New York schools Holiday Display policy. Sifton somehow found “significant secular connotations” in the menorah and crescent-and-star even after acknowledging that the menorah, at least, is clearly if not exclusively a religious symbol. [Decision in PDF]

In contrast, Sifton claimed, Nativity scenes in any form are “purely religious” and accordingly verboten.

Siftons ruling is ridiculous on the most basic of Establishment Clause grounds: he has made himself, a government official, the referee of what is and isnt a religious symbol a power that clearly violates the Establishment Clause. Basically, Judge Sifton took refuge in the standard Justice Brennan invented in Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971 (known since, not very affectionately, as “the Lemon Test”), by finding the Department of Eds Holiday Display policy had a legitimate secular purpose: advancing multiculturalism.

Mrs. Skoros appealed. The case made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, across the East River in New York. In February 2006, a sharply divided panel of the Second Circuit also found for the Department of Ed. [Full text PDF]

After an insultingly flippant opening (“No holiday season is complete, at least for the courts, without one or more First Amendment challenges to public holiday displays”), the majority ducked the issue of whether the Department of Ed was discriminating against Christianity. Instead, it professed to find no evidence that New York City was promoting Judaism and Islam in its public schools, on the theory that the point of view to consider was that of a detached adult observer. The court made a point of saying it wasnt ruling on whether a Nativity scene such as a crche was always impermissible, and even said that a menorah is clearly a religious symbol. But it upheld New York Citys discrimination against Christian symbols with the argument that the Holiday Display policy has a “secular purpose”: to promote pluralism through multicultural holiday displays.

Judge Chester Straub, in a stinging dissent, said that his courts majority had misapplied the endorsement test Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor inserted into Establishment Clause jurisprudence in 1984 . In Straubs view, it made no sense to invoke a hypothetical neutral adult. Look instead at the real people involved, he wrote, and “a reasonable student observer would perceive a message of endorsement of Judaism and Islam and a reasonable parent observer would perceive a message that Judaism and Islam are favored and that Christianity is disfavored” in violation of the Establishment Clause.

After being denied a rehearing by the Second Circuit en banc (all the circuits judges sitting together), Mrs. Skoros has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

As of this writing, and despite a false UPI report on November 28 that it had turned the case down, the Supreme Court has not announced whether or not it will hear Skoros v. City of New York. But it may announce that decision before the end of this week.

If the Court takes Mrs. Skoross case, we can hope it will restore Nativity scenes to New Yorks Christmas-time displays. Justice OConnor, the Courts unpredictable swing vote, is off the bench and off to William and Mary. Her replacement is Samuel Alito. As a Third Circuit judge, Alito ruled that a display including a crche, menorah and secular symbols was perfectly fine under the Constitution. And so it is.

The War Against Christmas, and against Christianity in America, is part and parcel of the campaign to transform America, against the wishes of most Americans. It is of a piece with mass immigration. As Peter Brimelow says of immigration, America is being transformed against our will, and for no reason. Anyone who knows any American history, who can read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, knows that Christianity is part of the American fabric, and always has been.

There are victories in the WAC that we Christmas-philes can take heart from. Mrs. Skoross lawyers at the TMLC posted a New York success in November. For two years the Town of Bedford, in the Westchester County suburbs just north of the city, had posted a menorah, complete with lighting ceremony, on the town hall lawn for Hanukkah, while refusing a similar Christmas display. This year, thanks to a TMLC letter and persuasive argument by New York lawyer Christopher Ferrara, a Nativity scene is on the lawn as well.

The Sea-Tac “Holiday” Trees are back up, after strong reaction to their being toppled as the airport managements excuse for declining to mount a large menorah, at the request of the rabbi who started the fuss.

Pressure and the internet work.

It is past time to stop the New Classs abuse of the Establishment Clause to drive Christianity from American life when the Establishment Clause actually exists to protect free exercise of religion.

Mrs. Skoros is offering the Supreme Court an opportunity to do just that. I hope they take it.

Merry Christmas!

Howard Sutherland ( email him) is an attorney in New York.