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A Yuletide Perennial: The ‘War on Christmas’ A Yuletide Perennial: The ‘War on Christmas’

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Politics / Political Correctness

A Yuletide Perennial: The ‘War on Christmas’

Volunteers of America's Sidewalk Santas kick off the holiday season with a walk up Fifth Avenue during the 108th annual Parade of Santas in New York City on November 26. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Lindsey Boerma
December 3, 2010

It's the most politically correct time of the year.

During the month of December, religiously motivated controversies are as abundant as poinsettias. This year, several contentious episodes are already well under way, including a protest by Sen. Jame Inhofe, R-Okla., who says he won't participate in a "holiday" parade in Tulsa—his old mayoral stamping ground—unless the event's organizers restore its title to the original "Christmas Parade of Lights." Meanwhile, some Philadelphians are getting plenty of exercise as a tug-of-war between Mayor Michael Nutter and other city officials had them erecting signs advertising the city's famous "Christmas Village," then tearing them down, then putting them back up.

Even though Christmas Day is designated a federal holiday, calls to more actively consider the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress, have become amplified with the turn of the 21st century. Ongoing uncertainties about secular versus religious themes seem to have been further muddied by Supreme Court rulings, beginning with Lynch v. Donnelly in 1984. In that case, the Court decided that the amendment's Establishment Clause did not prohibit government-funded Christmas displays, but it did not mandate inclusion of specific religions or secular alternatives.

 

The result has been largely political, with conservatives tending to favor acknowledging "Christmas" per tradition and liberals fighting for a secular holiday season in the interest of religious egalitarianism.

The issue isn't likely to go away anytime soon, so here's a look at the five most pivotal debates in the "War on Christmas" during the past decade.

Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas

2009: Obama Catches Flak Over Nativity Scene 2006: Wal-Mart Flip-Flops on 'Holiday' and 'Christmas' 2005: Hastert Flustered Over Capitol Hill Tree 2005: Are You on the Naughty List? 2002: O'Reilly Throws Down Over Christmas
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