Monthly Archives: December 2018

Trump Iraq Visit Is Called a Political Rally

The political paraphernalia on display during President Trump’s visits to Germany, above, and Iraq has raised questions at the Defense Department about protocol violations.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

The political paraphernalia on display during President Trump’s visits to Germany, above, and Iraq has raised questions at the Defense Department about protocol violations.CreditCreditAl Drago for The New York Times

By Annie Karni- 

WASHINGTON — During his surprise visit to American troops in Iraq and Germany this week, President Trump singled out red “Make America Great Again” caps in a sea of military fatigues, signed a “Trump 2020” patch and accused Representative Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats of being weak on border security.

Now the president is facing accusations that he was playing politics with the military.

“When that starts happening, it’s like the politicalization of the judicial branch,” said Mark Hertling, a retired three-star Army lieutenant general.

Visiting troops abroad is a presidential tradition in which the commander in chief puts aside politics to thank a military that represents a broad spectrum of the country. But Mr. Trump’s political comments and his encouragement of supporters in the crowd veered from those norms.

“He has to understand that there exist some audiences that should not be addressed as part of his base, because they are not,” Mr. Hertling said. “It’s a violation of protocol by the president.”

Then there was the president’s boast, which was incorrect, that the troops would be getting their first raise in more than a decade thanks to his leadership.

“You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years — more than 10 years,” he told about 100 uniformed troops at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. “And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.” In fact, the military has received steady pay increases for decades.

Trump in Iraq: First Visit to U.S. Troops in Combat
President Trump made a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday, days after he said, despite advisers’ objections, that he would pull out all American soldiers in Syria and half of those in Afghanistan.Published OnCreditCreditAl Drago for The New York Times

Mr. Trump also turned a customary Christmas greeting into a broadside against Democrats, who are refusing to fund a wall along the southern border. The stalemate over the wall, Mr. Trump’s signature campaign promise, has resulted in a partial government shutdown.

“I don’t know if you folks are aware of what’s happening,” Mr. Trump said. “We want to have strong borders in the United States. The Democrats don’t want to let us have strong borders.”

“You know why?” he added. “Because I want it.”

Mr. Trump joked that his solution to obtaining funding for a wall was to claim that he did not want one anymore. “Tell Nancy Pelosi I don’t want the wall,” he said, adding: “And then we get the wall. That’s another way of doing it.”

“You’re fighting for borders in other countries, and they don’t want to fight, the Democrats, for the border of our country,” he added. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Mr. Trump at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Wednesday. “If these brave young people ask me to sign their hat, I will sign,” the president said.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times
Mr. Trump at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Wednesday. “If these brave young people ask me to sign their hat, I will sign,” the president said.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

Ms. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, accused Mr. Trump of turning uniformed troops into scenery for a campaign speech. “He offered our brave men and women in uniform the bitter insult of using them as political pawns to push his radical right-wing, anti-immigrant agenda,” Mr. Hammill said. “The president turned his first visit to our troops into another cringe-worthy Donald Trump reality-show special.”

Some commentators on Fox News also criticized the president for injecting politics into the event.

“He talked about the border wall as well, which didn’t have a place there,” Julie Banderas, a Fox News contributor, said on the show “Outnumbered.” Another Fox News contributor on the show, Jessica Tarlov, criticized the president for using the visit “as a campaign rally.”

The political paraphernalia on display, which Mr. Trump appeared to encourage during his speech by referencing the caps he had signed, has raised questions at the Defense Department about violations of military protocol by the troops who greeted him. One woman in uniform at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, for instance, welcomed Mr. Trump with a “Make America Great Again” flag, according to a photograph posted on Twitter by a Bloomberg News reporter who accompanied Mr. Trump on the trip.

A directive from the department prohibits active-duty personnel from engaging in “partisan political activities” and advises that “all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign or cause.” Defense Department and Army regulations also prohibit military personnel from showing any political leanings while in uniform, Mr. Hertling said.

An official said the department was aware of the situation and “trying to figure it out” by tracking down photographs of troops holding red caps and campaign flags, and piecing together where the campaign paraphernalia came from.

Mr. Trump said on Thursday that he could not turn down any requests from the soldiers. “If these brave young people ask me to sign their hat, I will sign,” he tweeted. “Can you imagine my saying NO? We brought or gave NO hats as the Fake News first reported!”

Donald J. Trump


CNN & others within the Fake News Universe were going wild about my signing MAGA hats for our military in Iraq and Germany. If these brave young people ask me to sign their hat, I will sign. Can you imagine my saying NO? We brought or gave NO hats as the Fake News first reported!

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said administration officials did not distribute any campaign gear to the troops, and noted that “these were their personal belongings.”

On her Twitter feed, Ms. Sanders addressed a report that raised questions about whether the red caps displayed for Mr. Trump to sign may have violated a military rule.

“CNN will attack anyone who supports President Trump, including the brave men and women of our military who fight everyday to protect our freedom,” Ms. Sanders wrote. She declined to comment further on the president’s speech.

In his remarks, Mr. Trump also boasted that he had secured “billions and billions of dollars of new equipment” for the military.

“You’re getting such new equipment, your eyes are popping, right?” he asked the troops.


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President Donald Trump was struggling to get into the festive spirit on Christmas Eve, tweeting “poor me” and complaining he was “all alone” in the White House waiting for Democrats to make a deal to avert a partial government shutdown.

“I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security,” Trump tweeted on Monday shortly after noon. “At some point the Democrats not wanting to make a deal will cost our Country more money than the Border Wall we are all talking about. Crazy!”

Donald J. Trump


I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security. At some point the Democrats not wanting to make a deal will cost our Country more money than the Border Wall we are all talking about. Crazy!

65.2K people are talking about this

Trump last week insisted that the government would shut down if Democrats did not include funding for a wall on the border with Mexico. He also said that in the event of a shutdown, he would not go to his Mar-a-Lago resort for Christmas as has been his tradition. Trump had planned to spend 16 days at his resort in Florida, an even longer vacation than 12 months ago.

First lady Melania Trump had already traveled to Mar-a-Lago, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Saturday tweeted that she “will return from Florida so they can spend Christmas together.”

The shutdown is on day three.

donald, trump, christmas, shutdown, shutdownPresident Donald Trump speaks about border security with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office on December 11, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Trump tweeted “poor me” on Twitter because he faces spending Christmas in the White House instead of Mar-a-Lago amid a government shutdown. MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

While Trump is crying “poor me,” hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been forced to go on paid leave. Workers in departments that are considered essential are required to work through the shutdown but will not be compensated until it ends or lawmakers pass legislation for retroactive pay.

For Audrey Murray, 59, who serves as a cleaner at the Smithsonian Institution and the State Department in the evening, the shutdown has bigger implications than not being able to enjoy the holidays at a resort. She may not be able to pay her mortgage.

“It’s just so depressing,” Murray, who is at higher risk of not being paid back because she is a contractor, told The Wall Street Journal. “My mortgage is due on the first … Nobody should be going through this.”

Trump’s holiday traditions include attending a Christmas Eve service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea church and holding a New Years Eve party at Mar-a-Lago with tickets going for $650 for dues-paying members, according to The Palm Beach Post.

The president’s annoyance with staying in the White House “all alone” was apparent in the many tweets he fired off Monday. He sent 10 tweets, most of them slamming Democrats and blaming them for the shutdown, by 2 p.m.


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It’s not safe to go to sleep. I did last night, and woke up to find that the pigs are still trying to put the worlds largest methanol refinery 36 miles from my home!


Purpose of this Notice:  The purpose of this notice is to inform the public that the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Supplemental EIS) for the Kalama Manufacturing and Marine Export Facility (the proposed project) is being released for public review and comment. A public hearing will be conducted where the public may comment on the Draft Supplemental EIS. An expanded comment period will begin on November 13, 2018 and end on December 28, 2018. All comments received during the comment period will be reviewed and considered in the preparation of the Final Supplemental EIS.

Description of Proposal:  NW Innovation Works, LLC – Kalama (NWIW) proposes to develop and operate a natural gas-to-methanol production plant and storage facilities on approximately 90 acres in the Port of Kalama (Port). The proposed project objective is the manufacture and shipment of methanol to global markets, primarily in Asia for use as a feedstock for manufacturing olefins used in the production of plastics and other materials. Natural gas will be delivered to the methanol plant via a proposed new transmission pipeline lateral. Northwest Pipeline GP will be responsible for obtaining permits for and constructing this pipeline, extending from its existing pipeline approximately three miles through unincorporated Cowlitz County and the City of Kalama. Methanol will be transferred by pipeline across Port property from the storage area to a deep draft marine terminal on the Columbia River including a new dock and new berth with associated dredging.

The Draft Supplemental EIS supplements the previously prepared Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued for the proposed project on 30 September 2016 with additional analysis and consideration of mitigation for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions attributable to the project. The Supplemental EIS is being prepared to address findings by the Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board in its 15 September 2017 Order on Motions for Partial Summary Judgment (SHB No. 17‐010c) and the Cowlitz County Superior Court Order Affirming in Part and Reversing in Part the Shorelines Hearings Board Order dated 15 September 2017 (Superior Court Case No. 17-2-01269-08).

The Supplemental EIS includes a GHG life-cycle analysis covering the following sources of GHG emissions:

(1) GHG emissions attributable to construction of the project;

(2) On-site direct GHG emissions from the project;

(3) GHG emissions from purchased power, including consideration of the potential sources of generation that would satisfy the new load;

(4) GHG emissions potentially attributable to the project from natural gas production, collection, processing, and transmission;

(5) GHG emissions from shipping methanol product to a representative Asian port; and

(6) GHG emissions associated with changes in the methanol industry and related markets that may be induced by the proposed project’s methanol production.

Based on this GHG life cycle analysis and voluntary mitigation measures proposed by the applicant, the Draft Supplemental EIS finds that there are no unavoidable significant adverse impacts due to GHG emissions.

Proponent:  Northwest Innovation Works LLC and the Port of Kalama.

Location of the Proposal:  The project would be located on land leased from the Port. The site is located on the Columbia River in unincorporated Cowlitz County.  It is accessible from Tradewinds Road, a private Port road.

State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Co-Lead Agencies: The Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County are co-lead agencies. The Port is the nominal lead, responsible for complying with the SEPA lead agency duties for the SEPA review process.

Availability of Draft Supplemental EIS copies:  The Draft Supplemental EIS and supporting documents are available for viewing and downloading at and copies of the document are also available for review at the following locations:

Port of Kalama Administrative Office: 110 W. Marine Drive, Kalama, WA.

Kalama Public Library: 312 North 1st, Kalama, WA.

Cowlitz County Department of Building & Planning: 207 Fourth Ave N., Suite 119, Kelso, WA.

Longview Public Library: 1600 Louisiana Street, Longview, WA.

Kelso Public Library: 351 Three Rivers Drive, Kelso, WA


Copies of the Draft Supplemental EIS on disk may be requested by contacting the responsible official below. The Port reserves the option of charging for the costs of this reproduction.


Public Hearing: A public hearing will be held on December 13, 2018 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cowlitz County Event Center located at 1900 7th Avenue, Longview, WA 98632. The public hearing venue is ADA accessible.

Public Comment Period: Agencies, affected tribes, and members of the public are invited to comment on the Draft Supplemental EIS during the expanded comment period, which begins on November 13, 2018 and ends at 5:00 p.m. on December 28, 2018. Written comments will be accepted in the following manner:

Mail:    KMMEF EIS, C/o SEPA Responsible Official, Port of Kalama, 110 West Marine Drive, Kalama, WA 98625




SEPA Responsible Officials:

Ann Farr, Port of Kalama

Elaine Placido, Cowlitz County Director of Building and Planning


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The War on Christmas

Although it was never an official plank of the Republican Party platform, Donald Trump repeatedly promised during the 2016 presidential election campaign to “bring back” the holiday greeting “Merry Christmas” — which, to hear him tell it, had been all but obliterated by the forces of political correctness. As president, Trump repeated the promise yet again in October 2017 at the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., proclaiming, “We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

Without using the phrase “War on Christmas,” Trump was essentially drawing a battle line in a century-old debate that is not just about the 25th of December, but a fundamental disagreement over whether the United States is a secular or a Christian country.

Former Fox News media personality Bill O’Reilly, the most notorious War-on-Christmas alarmist of the past two decades, recited his conspiratorial version of the controversy during a television broadcast in 2004:

All over the country, Christmas is taking flak. In Denver this past weekend, no religious floats were permitted in the holiday parade there. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled the holiday tree and no Christian Christmas symbols are allowed in the public schools. Federated Department Stores, Macy’s, have done away with the Christmas greeting, “Merry Christmas.”

Now, all of this anti-Christian stuff is absurd, and may even be a bias situation. But the real reason it’s happening has little to do with Christmas and everything to do with organized religion.

Secular progressives realize that America as it is now will never approve of gay marriage, partial birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs, income redistribution through taxation, and many other progressive visions because of religious opposition.

But if the secularists can destroy religion in the public arena, the brave new progressive world is a possibility. That’s what happened in Canada.

But Trump and O’Reilly are hardly the first to voice concern that some malignant social force — be it political correctness, secular progressives, Communists, Democrats, “the international Jew,” or all of the above — is bent on destroying Christianity (and with it, America itself) via a series of sly, incremental steps beginning with downgrading Christmas to an unmentionable holiday.

The 1920s

“Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth,” wrote Henry Ford in 1921, more than 80 years before Bill O’Reilly would utter similar complaints on Fox News.

The iconic American business tycoon and anti-Semite issued a series of pamphlets in the 1920s (collected under the title The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem) accusing American Jews of, among countless other crimes, engaging in a conspiracy to “abolish” Christmas celebrations in public places:

Not only do the Jews disagree with Christian teaching — which is their perfect right, and no one dare question it — but they seek to interfere with it. It is not religious tolerance in the midst of religious difference, but religious attack that they preach and practice. The whole record of Jewish opposition to Christmas, Easter and certain patriotic songs shows that.

What Ford called “Jewish opposition to Christmas” actually boiled down to a few instances of Jewish leaders challenging the teaching of Christianity in public schools — as when a Massachusetts school board was lobbied, and initially consented, to remove all references to Jesus from classroom “Christmas exercises” in 1912. Jewish groups also challenged classroom Bible readings, which were not uncommon at the time. However, the groups did not argue against Christianity itself, but rather launched a First Amendment challenge to proselytizing in public schools.

Yet Ford went so far as to accuse the Jewish owners of some of America’s great department stores (“the Levys and the Isaacs and the Goldsteins and the Silvermans”) of “profiteering” on the sale of Christmas merchandise while conspiring at the same time to undermine the religious significance of the holiday.

The 1950s

Christmas again became a battleground in the struggle over America’s identity in the 1950s, when a rise in religiosity after World War II reached its peak. A 1997 history of the period cited some astounding statistics about that trend:

On a typical Sunday morning in the period from 1955-58, almost half of all Americans were attending church — the highest percentage in U.S. history. During the 1950s, nationwide church membership grew at a faster rate than the population, from 57 percent of the U.S. population in 1950 to 63.3 percent in 1960.

A 1954 report in Women’s Wear Daily cited developments pointing to a nationwide “spiritual trend” in retail holiday presentations:

The Christmas Street Decoration Committee of the Waterloo [Iowa] Chamber of Commerce followed the lead of many other towns in Iowa putting “Christ back in Christmas.” To express this idea, a Nativity scene was place in Soldiers and Sailors Park here. It is lighted at night. A 46-inch aluminum star appears above the 15 life sized figures in the scene.

The post-World War II religious revival also had an impact on public school curricula. A 1955 resolution adopted by the National Council of the Churches of Christ (representing 30 Protestant denominations) explicitly called for the inclusion of religious teachings in classrooms:

It is expected that [public schools] shall teach that religion is an essential aspect of our national heritage and culture, that this nation subsists under the governance of God and that our moral and ethical values rest upon religious grounds and sanctions. To do otherwise would be to distort history.

Some Americans were alarmed at this last development, among them Jules Cohen, national coordinator for the prominent Jewish organization the National Community Relations Advisory Council, who warned in 1957 that “the principle of separation of church and state [is] under attack from many quarters and in a variety of ways.”

The pushback against increased religiosity was on display in a 1957 controversy over erection of a nativity scene at a small-town public high school in Ossining, New York. After the board of education approved the proposal for the display, officials received letters of protest from local residents arguing that it would violate the First Amendment. The board to reconsidered and ultimately rescinded their approval. They, in turn, were accused of “intolerance” in a now-familiar cycle. Redbook reported at the time:

Within a week the question of whether a religious display could properly be located on public-school property had degenerated into a bitter community wrangle. The Crèche Committee hotly insisted that the Board of Education hold a public meeting to reopen the question. The Rev. Frank Klausman, of Ossining Heights Church, charged that the members of the Board of Education “have allowed themselves to be coerced by a few and in the name of tolerance have committed an act of intolerance.”

These types of struggles brought out alarmists, most notably the far-right John Birch Society, whose pamphlet “There Goes Christmas?!” warned:

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 — to denude the event of its religious meaning. … The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand. They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda. What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.

The 1970s – 1990s

The civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s presented a head-on challenge to the conservatism of the ’50s, setting the stage for broader social changes (and reactions to those changes) over the next few decades. The ’70s and ’80s saw a shift toward greater recognition of and sensitivity toward Americans’ growing ethnic and religious diversity. Secularism was on the rise, too, as reflected in letters to newspaper editors complaining in the mid-’80s, much as Henry Ford had done in the ‘20s, that “Merry Christmas” was giving way to “Happy holidays” even as the big department stores maximized their profits via seasonal advertising.

The cultural change also reached in public schools, which saw increasingly diverse student populations at the same time that court rulings reaffirming the separation of church and state mandated the non-preferential treatment of religion in the classroom. The Los Angeles Times captured the transitional moment in a 1984 article:

When Danube Avenue Elementary School presented its first holiday program 25 years ago, it all seemed so easy.

Most of the students were Anglo and Christian, and the tone of the times dictated that those who didn’t celebrate Christmas would do their best to blend in with the majority.

But times and changed, and so has Danube. The school is now attended by Latinos, Asians, Christians and Jews. Some students travel to the Granada Hills campus from central Los Angeles neighborhoods where little English is spoken and Christmas celebrations don’t include visions of sugarplums. And the sensibilities of the 1980s state that the cultural traditions of all ethnic groups deserve equal time in the classroom.

The Supreme Court played an active role in secularizing public spaces throughout the decade. In 1980, the court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments in public schools is unconstitutional. In 1985, it found that Alabama’s “moment of silence” statute was unconstitutionally biased in favor of prayer. A 1987 ruling disallowed the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution. And, apropos Christmas, the court decided in 1989 (in Allegheny County v. ACLU) that it is unconstitutional to erect a nativity scene on public property.

Ironically, these changes occurred amid a resurgence of conservatism signaled by the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980 and the rise of the evangelical Christian right, which continued into the 1990s and 2000s. The two-term presidency of Bill Clinton, a socially progressive Democrat elected in 1992, only exacerbated America’s continuing identity crisis. Opposition grew to the secularization that had been on the rise since the 1960s.

2000 and Beyond

As far as we know, the term “War on Christmas” was coined by conservative author Peter Brimelow, whose race-based critique of U.S. immigration policy, Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster (Harper Perennial, 1995), in many ways prefigured the white nationalist political movement of today.

In 1999, Brimelow launched the polemical web site (named after Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas), which, besides being condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for its “racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant” postings, would become ground zero in the battle to “save” Christmas. Brimelow’s December 2000 post containing the first known mention of a “War on Christmas” warned readers that said war was “part of the struggle to abolish America.”

Part of Brimelow’s schtick was publishing annual compilations of the most egregious “attacks” on Christmas, citing the same kinds of examples Bill O’Reilly would later cite in his broadcasts:

“The City Manager in Eugene, OR has banned Christmas trees on city property. Reportedly he consulted with the People for the American Way and with the ACLU (usual suspects) and got their wholehearted support.”

“My children attend a private CATHOLIC school [in Shreveport, LA]. They have just been informed that ‘Happy Holidays’ will replace ‘Merry Christmas’ since the latter is ‘offensive’ to non-Christians. A parochial school, no less. P.S. this is the same school, which banned anything `Confederate` so as not to ‘insult’ the (literally) one or two blacks in the entire school.”

“The tipping point in the obliteration of Christmas came, I think, in the first year of the Clinton Administration. While everyone else was absorbed in the ‘gays in the military’ flap, I noted that the United States Postal Service had adopted the slogan, ‘We deliver for Yule.’ Since then, no Christmas from the USPS or, so far as I can tell, anything else related to the federal government.”

In 2004, the same year that Bill O’Reilly first declared the War on Christmas a national emergency, a group joined the fray called the Committee to Save Merry Christmas, which, using language not dissimilar to Henry Ford’s, said their purpose was “to protest the fact that big retailers profit from Christmas shopping dollars but refuse to mention the holiday by name.” The organization followed O’Reilly in calling for a boycott of Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and other retail outlets owned by Federated Department Stores to compel them to reinstate the phrase “Merry Christmas” in their holiday presentations and greetings to customers.

The following year, 2005, saw the publication of Fox News contributor John Gibson’s book The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. Meanwhile, O’Reilly revised and extended his roster of “anti-Christmas” merchants, adding Sears, Kmart, Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, and Costco to the “naughty” list. Christian groups ranging from the American Family Association to the Catholic League joined the retail boycott just as Federated Department Stores, perhaps feeling the heat, reversed course and encouraged employees to start wishing their customers a good, old-fashioned “Merry Christmas” again.

By 2006, nearly all of the retailers in O’Reilly and crew’s gunsights had followed Federated’s lead and announced their intentions to use the word “Christmas” in their holiday greetings. O’Reilly declared victory in the War on Christmas. “You know, we did it last year, we won the war,” he announced on his radio show in December 2006. “Walmart and Macy’s and all the big stores are saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ and they’ve stopped ordering their employees not to say it — most of them.”

Despite the declared victory, O’Reilly went on touting the War on Christmas for years to come (most recently in 2016, months before his abrupt termination from Fox News), regaling his television audience with examples of holiday “political correctness” supposedly tearing apart the social fabric of the country.

Is There Really a War on Christmas?

The evidence suggests there is no actual conspiracy to erase Christmas and destroy American civilization in the process, although some people clearly perceive it to be the case. Belief in a “War on Christmas” seems to go hand-in-hand with the belief that the United States is a fundamentally Christian nation whose social fabric is weakened or torn by religious diversity and secularism.

The fear that Christmas is “under attack” has been a recurring, if not cyclical, phenomenon in the United States of America for the better part of the last century. It tends to flare up when anxieties about immigration, secularization, and other perceived threats to the established social order increase. But these only represent a “war” on the holiday if one sees Christianity, and Christmas in particular, as central to the nation’s identity — and if one sees the use of public space as essential to the religious celebration. After all, since the United States’ founding, there has never been a law preventing the celebration of Christmas in any way in individuals’ homes, churches, or private spaces.

If one sees the United States as a secular nation, one is unlikely to perceive Christmas as under attack — no more so than Yom Kippur, Ramadan, or any other religious tradition that goes largely uncelebrated in public and commercial spaces.

History shows there is a regular ebb and flow of faith and secularism in America, along with inevitable fluctuations in the ethnic and religious makeup of the country. These have contributed to changes in how Christmas is celebrated over time. Such changes have not always been welcomed by all, and have sometimes been seen (or at least presented) as pernicious, but they are not the result of any grand conspiracy.


We would be remiss not to point out that the one and only time Christmas was actually banned on what would later become U.S. soil, it was by Christians.

In 1659, the Puritan lawmakers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony followed the example of their brethren in England by issuing an edict outlawing the observance of Christmas (and other “superstitious” holidays):

For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God and offence of others, it is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon such accountants as aforesaid, every person so offending shall pay of every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the county.

Why? Because, as befitted their name, the Puritans found feasting, wassailing, gift giving, and wishing one another a merry Christmas ungodly and sinful (we suspect not even the secularized greeting “Happy holidays” would have been acceptable to this lot).

Despite a 22-year ban on celebrating it (the law was repealed in 1681), Christmas survived unscathed to eventually become the most popular (not to mention durable) holiday celebrated in America.



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