A Short History of the Right's 100 Years of Touting a 'War on Christmas'
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Dec 05, 2014 at 11:18:36 AM EST
It may be surprising to learn that America's twenty-first century "War on Christmas" - spearheaded by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and the ultra-conservative American Family Association -- has as its antecedents the anti-Semitic ravings of industrialist Henry Ford, the right-wing conspiracy mongering of the John Birch Society, and the anti-immigration blustering of Peter Brimelow.
Henry Ford blames the Jews

In 1921, Ford maintained that Jews were behind efforts to attack Christmas, writing "The whole record of the Jewish opposition to Christmas...shows the venom and directness of [their] attack." In his 1921 tract The International Jew, Ford cited what he considered outrageous attacks on Christmas: "Christmas celebrations or carols in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, St. Paul and New York met with strong Jewish opposition ... Local Council of Jewish Women of Baltimore petitions school board to prohibit Christmas exercises ... The Council of the University Settlement, at the request of the New York Kehillah [Jewish leadership], adopts this resolution: `That in the holiday celebrations held annually by the Kindergarten Association at the University Settlement every feature of any sectarian character, including Christmas trees, Christmas programs and Christmas songs, shall be eliminated.'"  

The John Birch Society blames the Communists

Nearly forty years later, in a pamphlet titled There Goes Christmas?!, the John Birch Society argued that "One of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas." The JBS denounced supporters of the United Nations, claiming that they were trying "poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda."  

Interestingly, it was the Puritans that "manned" the "front lines of the War on Christmas," Time magazine reported in a story dated December 8, 2008: "Objecting to the yuletide festivities on the grounds that they didn't square with the Bible's teachings, in 1659 the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony banned the holiday; it wasn't reinstated until 1681."

Peter Brimelow blames almost everyone

Just before the turn of this century, Peter Brimelow, described by Time as "a former magazine writer and editor" who was a "virulent anti-immigration crusader whose views were considered extreme by mainstream conservative journals like National Review," founded a website called VDare.com "that soon was at the forefront of the fight to sanctify Christmas cheer."

"Beginning in 1999, Brimelow ran a competition to spotlight offenders in the War on Christmas," Time pointed out. "The inaugural villain was the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which earned the dubious honor for hosting a holiday party dubbed `A Celebration of Holiday Traditions.' The following year, Amazon.com became a target of Brimelow's wrath for subjecting consumers to the nondenominational greeting `Happy Holidays!'"

Fox takes the battle to cable

A few years later, Fox's Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hanjity and John Gibson, brought the battle to cable television.

"I think it's all part of the secular progressive agenda...to get Christianity and spirituality out of the public square," O'Reilly said on Nov. 18, 2005. "Because if you look at what happened in Western Europe and Canada, if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage."

In his 2005 book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse than You Thought, Gibson pointed out that "The Christians are coming to retake their place in the public square, and the most natural battleground in this war is Christmas." In an interview with the National Review, he tossed the blame for the War on Christmas onto the doorstep of the American Civil Liberties Union: "Generally there is an ACLU component to the Christmas controversy."




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