With the holiday season in full swing, the “War on Christmas” is in national headlines again. In Santa Monica, California, atheists have angered local Christians and gained national attention by convincing the city council to no longer hold a public nativity scene in a public park. The decision by the Santa Monica City Council to no longer allow public displays in Palisades Park overturns a tradition dating back more than 60 years.
“Atheists don’t like our happiness, they don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable,” Pastor Pat Robertson said. Meanwhile, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said that secular progressives, “want to change America dramatically; mold it in the image of Western Europe.”
O’Reilly spent time arguing with David Silverman, the president of the American Atheist Group, on his television show, “The O’Reilly Factor.” Silverman came on the program to say that he was trying to stop “the government from preferring one religion over the other.” As the segment escalated, O’Reilly called Silverman and the American Atheists a “merry band of fascists,” while also reaching over the table and wagging his finger in his guest’s face.
Comedian Jon Stewart said that the annual coverage of the perceived "War on Christmas" waged by Fox News is lacking the usual vigor of previous years. “It's as though the 'War on Christmas' has become a rote observance, devoid of all its original spiritual meaning," he said.
“Fox and Friends” brought on frequent contributor Father Jonathon Morris, a Catholic priest, for his thoughts on the conflict. Morris commented that coverage dedicated by the network was “silly” and that he did not mind hearing “Happy Hanukkah” when the issue of holiday greetings arose. Morris chided Fox News, and said, “You guys look so angry about this 'War on Christmas.' I can tell."
These controversies come at a time when 78.4 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians, according to a Pew poll. In this same poll, only 1.6 percent are self-identified atheists, although this number is steadily rising each year. This is evident by the constant rise in Pew’s research of the religiously unaffiliated, which marks roughly 13 million self-described atheist or agnostics, an all-time high for the study.
In Rhode Island, Governor Lincoln Chafee and the rest of the state government are receiving attention for Chafee's decision to refer to the public evergreen in the statehouse as a “holiday” tree.
Boston College has maintained tradition, with the focus on the Jesuit roots and Catholic identity here on campus. This past week, BC held its annual “Christmas,” not “holiday,” tree lighting.
The White House is now involved, having released its annual greeting in the form of a “holiday card” with the First Family’s dog Bo on the cover as opposed to a “Christmas card.” Yet, the White House is also displaying 54 Christmas trees this year, a move that Fox News criticized as being extravagant while “Americans face a fiscal cliff.”