The Mythical ‘War on Christmas’ in Texas Schools

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 November to adopt the textbooks — textbooks that teach established, mainstream science on evolution and climate change.

Perhaps the folks at Texas Values realized they were backing a losing cause and didn’t want to be associated with it. So instead of telling its members about their failure to corrupt the state’s new science textbooks, the group has been pushing an old standby — the mythical “war on Christmas” that religious-right groups claim is raging across America. Here’s an excerpt from a typically hyperbolic email Texas Values sent out the day after Thanksgiving:

No student in Texas should fear talking about Christmas at school or exercising their most basic religious liberty rights. Ever!

But sadly over the last few years, we have seen a growing level of hostility and mistreatment of Christmas in the public square and in our schools. Led by secularists, atheists, and taxpayer funded lawyers, and bowing at the altar of political correctness, the attacks on Christmas have increased to unprecedented levels.

Make no mistake — the War on Christmas is a key front in the radical movement to remove all religious expression from the public square. And ground zero for this battle has been public schools across the U.S., including right here in Texas.

You see, the battle in our schools is the battle for the future of Texas. The other side knows if they can remove all religious expression from our schools, they can indoctrinate the future generation of Texans to their worldview that has no place for God.

This ridiculous email goes on to beg readers to make a “generous donation” to help Texas Values defend Christmas. Seriously. The group’s email writers must think their readers are suckers.

Does anyone really believe that Texas schools are overrun with militant atheist teachers and principals trying to destroy Christmas? The vast majority of Texans celebrate the holiday and are open about its significance to their religious faith. Walk through just about any neighborhood in the state in December and you’ll find house after house — including the homes of teachers and principals — decorated for Christmas. Christmas lights and other decorations brighten city streets and public buildings across the state, and public offices (including schools) close for the holiday. And, of course, churches are packed on Christmas Day itself.

The truth is that the celebration of Christmas — and religious freedom, generally — thrives in Texas. But groups like Texas Values trot out the familiar nonsense about a “war on Christmas” every year. They hope to scare money out of the pockets and purses of their gullible supporters. But this year they’re also hoping their “defense” of Christmas will hide their failure to undermine the science education of millions of Texas students.

17 thoughts on “The Mythical ‘War on Christmas’ in Texas Schools

  1. Christmas is one of our favorite holidays, so we are generally aware of all things Christmas that are going on around us. And yes, Jesus is the reason for the season. We also have a child in public schools and one in community college. If there is a war on Christmas, we have not seen hide nor hair of it here in our town. I think Bill Shakespeare said it best, “Sound and fury signifying nothing.” Only problem is: No Sound. No Fury. No Nothing.

    Looks to me like the boys over at Liberty Institute are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Texans while liberating their wallets—just like you TFN folks have deduced. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you Charles: I always enjoy reading your thoughts. Even for people w/o religious inclinations it’s a time of reflection about family and our obsession w/ “…getting and spending …” (Apologies to William Wordsworth.) Winter Solstice celebrations in northern Europe long before Christianity was introduced are still very much a part of our modern Christmas/Holiday spirit.

      1. I like to read your comments too Rubin. Ho!! Ho!! Ho!!! Merry Christmas!!!! I have actually told some people that I would like to “Marry Christmas,” but it goes right over their heads.

        1. “Marry Christmas … let’s see … that might be legal in some states, but not Texas. But, are you sure Christmas would want to marry you? What about kids? So many things to consider….

  2. ….as if American students are so far ahead of their international peers, we should devote school hours to another retelling of the Nativity story. Who needs to learn math or geography–let’s talk about Jesus’ birthday!

  3. Mother Jones had a piece last Wednesday on the “War on Thanksgiving” – the ongoing push on the part of the big retail stores to move Black Friday back into Thanksgiving Day. You would think that Texas Values would include staying home and eating turkey and dressing, even for Target and JC Penney employees…..

    1. Yeah. You would think. I was one of the many people who complained to Pizza Hut. Here is all you have to know. The United States has only one true deity: MONEY. Jesus is not anywhere even close. Even the Christian fundamentalists fall to their knees before this god. Just ask Rep. Paul Ryan. He’s their high priest.

  4. I personally cannot understand why many people claim only half of their first amendment rights. Not only does it protect your right to believe how you choose, it protect you from being forced to believe what someone else thinks you should.
    I’m not Right, and I’m not Left. I’ve heard a tremendous amount of noise about a “War on Christmas” but only from the far right groups. Most of those groups claim they want to protect your rights by taking part of those rights away from people who believe different. They use emotional duress to keep their followers from asking the logical follow up question. Ask yourself this question! If I support taking someone’s religious protections away, don’t I then loose my protections?

    1. You said: “If I support taking someone’s religious protections away, don’t I then loose my protections?”

      Very much so. Basically, the people who are most adamant about this constitute a minority of the population, but they tend to think of themselvs as a majority (in their own minds). They believe that their religious freedom rights under the First Amendment have been taken away already, and they are just trying to win them back.

      How’s that? They believe (and their country hick preachers tell them so) that they must have complete, total, and 100 percent freedom to witness for Jesus Christ anytime they wish, anywhere they wish, any way they wish, and to everyone they wish. Anything less than this is considered to be taking away their First Amendment rights to “free exercise” of their religion. The thing they do not understand is that none of our First Amendment rights are absolute in all cases. We have free speech, but we cannot scream out “fire” in a crowded theater (risking a stampede and death). The U.S. Supreme Court decided long ago (and rightly so) that this is not a free speech right.

      With regard to “free exercise of religion,” it too is not absolute. It is not legal to barge your way into a man’s privately owned restaurant without his permission and preach to his diners during the dinner hour. It is not legal to crawl in my bedroom window and preach to my wife and me as we lay in our beds at 3:00 a.m. It is not legal to preach the Christian fundamentalist view of the Christian faith in a public school classroom populated with 17 church-attending Catholic, United Methodist, and Lutheran children—and an occasional atheist/agnostic—and the reasons for that should be obvious.

      However, they are unable to see and understand this simple fact—and there is a reason for it. Christian fundamentalists believe that they are on a special human rescue mission for Jesus. Jesus and the Great Commission trump the U.S. Constitution and individual rights to property, personal privacy, and choice in life. In their eyes, everyone on Earth who does not believe exactly as they do is going to go to a fiery Hell where all of their nerve endings are fully activated, and the heat burns all of the flesh off of their body every 3 minutes, all of their flesh and nerves are suddenly reconstituted, and then they are all burned off again during the next 3 minutes—and this process goes on with agony forever.

      Therefore, any and all means are justfied in this world to effect your rescue from this awful fate. As one of their popular leaders has said (and I paraphrase), “They may not understand or see the awful fate that awaits them, but you do. If a car is coming at them fast from behind, and they do not see or ear it coming, the right thing to do is tackle that person out of the way, even if doing so breaks an arm or leg. The same is justifiable to get them into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

      The thing the Christian fundamentalists forget is that God gives each person a free choice with regard to what one chooses to believe and what actions a person chooses to take. Consequences may ensue at some point, but it is a free choice. God refuses to make that choice for people. That includes the freedom to choose Jesus or reject Jesus—and God respects that right of choice that He has established. Unfortunately, Christian fundamentalists do not respect that right of human choice that God has established. They know better than God on such matters. Rather, it is their job to force you to choose their Christian fundamentalist way. This is one of the many ways that Christian fundamentalists choose to PLAY GOD. If you turn to the chapter in Genesis where Eve eats the forbidden fruit, you will find that the term “original sin” is this human desire to PLAY GOD.

      Christian fundamentalists are hellbent on ignoring what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says and does to protect the American people from…well…people like them. They would much rather twist and distort its words and intent to their way of seeing things—and PLAY GOD in the process.

  5. Reactionaries: you’re also losing the war on women, African Americans, Hispanics, and the LGBT community. I’m just going to say it out right…
    Merry Culture Wars!