You can have no doubt the ‘war on Christmas’ of 2005 will be dusted off and return in 2006

Remember back in December when I asked “… would someone please forward me a list of all the lawsuits the ACLU has filed this year regarding usage of the word ‘Christmas’? There must be a million of them.” No one sent a list, or even one example.

Remember that story from South Carolina I wrote about the rumor that the local Wal-Mart greeter had been fired for wishing folks a “Merry Christmas” that got so persistent that folks were threatening to return gifts?

It was all false, a scenario that likely played out all across the country.

Remember the hubbub about the school program in Dodgeville, Wis., in which the words to “Silent Night” would be changed to “Cold in the Night,” and the words of the religious songs changed to secular?

Remember how that was “Exhibit A” in the “war on Christmas,” according to the war’s holiest warriors, the Liberty Counsel? It was all based on falsehoods and misleading information, according to the school district, and they are seeking redemption of the legal variety.

According to an open letter to the Liberty Counsel (printed in the Wisconsin State Journal on Jan. 25), the School District of Dodgeville is seeking a public apology, a written retraction and damages of $23,899.48 (for administrative, legal and security costs).

The Liberty Counsel is the nonprofit litigation arm of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University/Baptist empire, headed up by Florida attorney Matthew Staver.

On Dec. 7, a “Liberty Counsel Alert!” and press release claims, “Ridgeway Elementary School’s ‘winter program’ has changed the name of ‘Silent Night’ to ‘Cold in the Night.’ Sung to the tune of ‘Silent Night,’ the lyrics have been secularized. … At the same time the school has changed the religious songs to secular, the ‘winter program’ has included decorating classrooms with Santa Clause (sic), Kwanzaa, Menorahs, and Labafana (a Christmas witch!). Liberty Counsel has issued a demand letter to the school stating that the school’s actions violate the Constitution.”

Ridgeway had never planned to sing “Silent Night” as anything but “Silent Night,” and there was no demand letter.

That very same day, Liberty Counsel had sent a fax — apparently after the press release had hit the Internet — to the District claiming “concerned parents” in the school district had contacted Liberty Counsel in regards to the Ridgeway Elementary “winter program.”

The fax stated that Liberty “… understood that ‘rather than sign (sic) lyrics to ‘Silent Night,’ which discuss the birth of Jesus Christ, the children will sign (sic) a song, to the tune of ‘Silent Night,’ which discusses how lonely a Christmas tree feels sitting out in the cold.’

The fax also contained what Dodgeville’s attorneys described as “… a canned memorandum of law pertaining to religious holidays. The letter contained no request for a reply, for more information or for any explanation of the District’s program.”

The District issued its own press release on Dec. 8 explaining “… our students have performed this program several times over the past 18 years. As customary, the program will conclude with the singing of traditional Christmas carols. … Our district policy allows us to perform both religious and secular music in our curriculum and performances. We include both in order to achieve balance.”

Nonetheless, Staver made the rounds of talk shows, speaking of the war on Christmas and threatening lawsuits against infidels.

The Dodgeville letter states that on Dec. 13, Liberty was “… provided with a statement indicating that, from the start, the program included traditional Christmas music (including religious songs with their original lyrics).”

Staver turned himself into the lawyer-who-saved-Christmas when he released a Dec. 14 Alert! headlined “School Dumps ‘Cold in the Night’ and Returns to ‘Silent Night’.”

There was never a program change, but there was Staver savoring victory in Exhibit A of the war on Christmas.

And fundraising off of it. That’s the most disgusting aspect of this whole affair.

I can picture my 86-year-old grandmother getting one of these solicitations and I know she’d think the war on Christmas to be just terrible.

Would she give some of her fixed income? Maybe.

Staver acknowledged his error … sort of. “(Dodgeville School Superintendent Diane) Messer and the rest of the school board should have or could and were requested to call us to resolve any alleged misunderstandings that they say might have been, but they didn’t do it,” Staver told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Would you buy a used car from that man? Trust him with your afterlife? Not me.

Around the time “The Great Pumpkin” is disappointing Linus again, someone in a boardroom in New York will say, “Hey — ratings really jumped when we did that ‘war on Christmas’ bit. Let’s stir that up again.”

We should set up a betting pool.

Throw in $5 and pick a date for the first “war on Christmas” letter of 2006 to roll in.

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