With the holidays upon us, religious righters and the politicians who pander to them are looking for any excuse to scream about a mythical “war on Christmas” and dream up new “threats” to religious freedom. The latest example comes to us from the city of Orange in Southeast Texas.

Orange city officials have decided to remove a Christmas nativity scene from city hall because an organization called Orange County Atheists wanted also to post a banner nearby. The atheists’ banner doesn’t attack Christmas or religion at all. It doesn’t even object to the nativity scene. The banner (below) simply extends good wishes to people who celebrate other holidays (including Christmas) this time of year:

But some folks in Orange are offended that a public building would (gasp) recognize the holidays of various faiths and traditions along with Christmas. Here’s what a city spokesperson said in announcing the rejection of the request to post the banner:

Based on this request, the City reviewed current case law. Supreme Court decisions have tried to address this question in an array of decisions, but there is not a clear case that gives affirmative direction to displaying the Nativity scene. This makes it difficult to… Read More

We suppose nothing says “Jesus is the reason for the season” better than a photo of … uh … Santa Claus.

It’s amusing how the Austin-based, religious-right group Texas Values is promoting the so-called “Merry Christmas Law” it helped pass last year. The group says the law protects religious freedom. And this month it held a press conference to highlight the law with a couple of legislators and Santa Claus. Yeah, nothing says “putting the Christ in Christmas” more than a fat man in a red suit standing next to politicians. Ho ho ho.

The law says school district employees and students can wish each other Merry Christmas (or any other holiday greeting they like) at school. Of course, the First Amendment has protected that right for well over 200 years, and the rare and misguided attempts to prevent such greetings get swatted down pretty quickly by the courts. But cynical groups like Texas Values know one good way to raise money is to persuade Christians — who make up the vast majority of the population in this country and celebrate Christmas openly and publicly, along with countless businesses and public entities — that the mythical “war on Christmas” is real and that they are being persecuted.

Well, we wish the folks at Texas Values… Read More

So here’s a story about how bigotry works — and how religious-right groups feed off it.

Schools across America typically close for important Christian holidays like Christmas. Some also close for major Jewish holy days like Yom Kippur. Muslims in Maryland’s Montgomery County asked officials to consider closing local schools in recognition of major Islamic days of observance like Eid al-Adha as well. They also asked that, even if schools don’t close, Muslim holidays be noted on the official school calendar as other holidays are.

School officials explained that they close for those Christian and Jewish holidays technically because absenteeism would be very high, not necessarily because they are religious holidays. Absenteeism on Islamic holidays, they have found, isn’t particularly high in their schools. So they won’t be closing schools for those holidays.

But officials also decided against listing Muslim holidays on the official school calendar. Instead, the Board of Education voted to remove all religious holidays from the calendar, although schools will still close on Christmas and Yom Kippur.

Not surprisingly, that frustrated local Muslims. After all, they weren’t asking that schools not recognize other religious holidays.

“By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality,” said Saqib Ali, a former… Read More

by Jose Medina

Question: Did you do nothing today other than sit on the couch and watch TV? Congratulations, your day was far more productive than the folks over at the far-right group Texas Values, who spent the day at the Capitol fighting an imaginary opponent alongside state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, and others in the latest round of the still non-existent "War on Christmas." Let's be clear and call this what is is: It's a fundraising scheme by Texas Values, which is the lobbying arm of Liberty Institute. It is also an excuse for Texas Values to gin up publicity with, potentially, a frivolous lawsuit against [your school district's name here]. It's sleigh-chaisin' instead of ambulance-chasin', if you will. So it's time to treat this campaign with the dignity it deserves, by throwing a couple of pies in its face. Texas Values and its lawyer-lobbyist Jonathan Saenz (pictured with Santas below) want to pretend like they're valiantly defending Christmas from the threat of, well, no one? Fine. We'll pitch in and create some ads for them. Because everyone needs a lawyer ... even Santa. Read More

We thought it was revealing that Texas Values, the lobby arm of the Plano-based religious-right group Liberty Institute, was mostly AWOL during the science textbook battle at the State Board of Education (SBOE) this year. It turns out that the group prefers to scare its members with myths and fantasies rather than work on serious issues — even issues that once dominated its time.

Four years ago the group’s chief lobbyist in Austin was a regular presence at SBOE debates over the revision of science curriculum standards. He portrayed those debates as critical to the future of science education even as his anti-evolution group argued for standards based on junk science. The group hailed the SBOE’s 2009 approval of flawed science standards that creationists hoped would force publishers to water down instruction on evolution and climate change in their new textbooks.

But since publishers submitted their new textbooks for adoption this past April, the Texas Values blog hasn’t said a word about it. The group sent a staff member to testify at an SBOE hearing about the textbooks in September, but its blog and emails to members have yet to mention the board’s final vote in… Read More