Fueled by shoddy reporting and right-wing bombast, the myth that Christmas is being banned spread across America in December.
As noted by Media Matters for America, newspaper columnists, right-wing shouting heads and TV preachers spent much of the month fulminating about supposed attempts by groups, such as Americans United and the ACLU, to kick God out of the public square or to "take Christ out of Christmas."
But truth often got mangled in the process. For example, a Seattle Times columnist erred in reporting that a high school principal in Kirkland, Wash., had banned a production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol partly because of the story's religious content. Not true, not even close. The principal, as the columnist had to concede in a subsequent piece, had actually canceled the production because it was being put on by a private for-profit group that planned to charge students for admission. As the principal noted in a statement, "We don't allow any private organizations to come and sell products in the schools, or we'd have everybody down here."
The facts, however, did not stop an attorney with the right-wing Washington, D.C.-based law firm, the Becket Fund, from appearing on Fox News Channel's "O'Reilly Factor" to deride school officials for allegedly canceling the play because of its religious content. Bill O'Reilly, along with his Fox colleague Sean Hannity, spent numerous hours on their programs throughout December perpetuating the Christmas-is-under-attack myth.
TV preachers Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and their allies joined the fray. Robertson told his "700 Club" audience on Dec. 23 that America is a Christian nation and that Christmas is "one of our great celebrations." For those who don't like to join in that celebration, he said, "they can go to the Sudan and find a wonderful Muslim holiday."
Falwell warned his followers about the "Christmas grinches" who were hell-bent "to remove Christmas totally from the American scene." The TV preacher proclaimed a "war on the left," and bragged that lawyers, such as those at the Becket Fund and Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, were ready "to sue the hide off of everybody" looking to stop children and adults from worshipping in December.
It was that type of bombast and bluster that surely made this Christmas season another profitable one for the coffers of many Religious Right lobbying groups.