the blaze

What if small towns fought back to save Christmas?

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Officials in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas are defying atheist grinches trying to shut down a Christmas display on the county courthouse lawn. Baxter County officials "rebuffed atheists’ efforts to seek the removal of a nativity scene from a courthouse lawn," reports Billy Hallowell for the Blaze.

And they're not the only ones. "Nativity scenes will appear in nine State Capitols this Christmas—five of them due to the work of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm," reports Tom Ciesielka for Charisma News. 

And of course, there's film and TV superstar Kirk Cameron, whose movie "Saving Christmas" expanded into more cities this weekend and is being held over past its planned two-week limited run nationwide. In it, the star of Fireproof and the original Left Behind films stands up with those who would attack any celebration of Christ's birth.

Standing up to out-of-town Scrooges, officials in rural Mountain Home, Arkansas, are telling complaining atheists to leave their creche alone. "The nativity scene," reports Hallowell, "is erected each year on the Baxter County Courthouse lawn  in memory of Coralee Faith Spencer, a deceased local woman."

Following court guidelines, the display includes secular elements as well, including a Santa Claus and a Christmas tree, the Associated Press reported.

And it includes a disclaimer proclaiming local citizens' right to express their religious beliefs: “During the Holiday Season," reads the plaque, "the County of Baxter salutes liberty. Let these festive lights and times remind us that we are keepers of the flame of liberty and our legacy of freedom. Whatever your religion or beliefs, enjoy the holidays. This display is owned and erected by private citizens of Baxter County.”

The American Humanist Association is livid and demanded the nativity scene be removed. Their protests have been ignored.

The county’s new resolution, which was adopted by all 11 quorum court members, cited a 1994 Supreme Court Case under which nativities are permitted so long as they include a disclaimer. Officials also noted that no public workers were involved in erecting, funding or taking down the Arkansas courthouse display.

Meanwhile in Chicago, Thomas More Society is celebrating the eighth year that statues of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus have resided in a small stable at the Illinois State Capitol. The Christian law firm has also helped secure permits for Nativity scenes to be displayed this year in the state capitols of Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Texas and on the Governor's Mansion lawn in Oklahoma.

"These Nativity displays represent classic free speech and the free exercise of faith by private citizens in the public square," explained Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. "However, the issue has not been without controversy," he added. "Nativity displays represent a constitutionally protected expression by private citizens in traditional or designated public forums, where the sole role of the government must be that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all citizens to have their 'say.' Such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of our nation are not merely tolerable but fully deserving of robust legal protection."

Kinda cool to know that lots of people are working together to save Christmas -- or at least preserve our right to celebrate it!

Signs of the "war on Christmas" popping up right on cue

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Like a four-year-old bouncing on the coffee table and shouting naughty words, atheists nationwide are doing their best to offend anyone who loves the reason for the season. "The most reliable annual 'war on Christmas' fodder in all the land has arrived," reports Abby Ohlheiser for the Washington Post. "A billboard, released by an atheist group."

“Dear Santa,” the billboard reads. “All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”

The American Atheists organization posted the billboards in Memphis, Nashville, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Arkansas. The signs are aimed at "in-the-closet atheists who are pressured to observe religious traditions during the holidays," reports Lauren Squires for ABC News in Memphis.  "While previous billboards have been located in urban settings like New York City's Times Square, this year billboards are located in more residential areas near schools and churches."

"Atheists in Illinois are taking direct aim at Christmas," reports Billy Hallowell of the Blaze, "by posting numerous public displays in an effort to combat nativity scenes and other religious sentiment.

“Once again this year, the non-religious will have a voice in the Chicago area countering the religious symbolism widely present on public property during the the month of December,” reads a press release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Metropolitan Chicago Chapter. "The group has posted a large, illuminated scarlet 'A' along with banners celebrating the winter solstice" in Chicago’s Daley Center Plaza.

The organization is also collaborating with the Chicago Coalition of Reason "to unveil a separate set of messages over the weekend inside North School Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois," reports Hallowell.

The atheist plan is to "outnumber religious symbols" commemorating Christmas, according to the press release from the the secular group’s Metropolitan Chicago Chapter. Among the messages will be a banner that asks, “Are you good without God? Millions are!”

But a few folks are fighting back -- including the thousands packing out theaters featuring Kirk Cameron's movie "Saving Christmas." It had been scheduled for a limited two-week run in select theaters -- but instead has has been held over nationwide. And more theaters are picking up the movie each week.

In fact, Cameron has unofficially put out the word that the only way to see "Saving Christmas" this year will be in theaters -- that no DVD will be released this Christmas season.

And in Redmond, Washington, signs proclaiming “It's OK to say 'Merry Christmas'” are popping up all over for the third consecutive year.

No one seems to know who’s responsible for posting the placards, according to the Redmond Reporter. The green signs include two Bible verses — one from Romans and another from Luke.

The text from Romans 1:16 reads, ”For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

"The signs," reports Hallowell, "which are placed near the library, police department and a local church, appear to be an attempt to encourage citizens to abandon more generic season’s greetings like 'Happy Holidays.'”

“We live in a pluralistic society and I'm grateful that we have freedom of expression,” said Suzanne Aviles, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.

According to a Pew poll, many of the states targeted by the atheists this year have a smaller-than-average percentage of people who responded that they do not believe in God. In Tennessee, for instance, just 2 percent of respondents said they do not believe in God. But American Atheists told the Post it is bringing the campaign to the South not because of the quantity of atheists there, but because “discrimination and mistrust of atheists is especially pronounced” in the region.

In Mississippi, no billboard company would rent the atheists a sign.

"Overall, American attitudes towards atheists are not positive," noted the Post. "In a poll earlier this year, a majority of Americans said that a belief in God is necessary for individual morality. And a temperature-based rating system from Pew measuring how people in the United States feel about different faith groups found that Americans, by a wide margin, have the 'coldest' feelings for atheists."

This is nuts! They thought what Christmas tradition was too religious?

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Of all the nutty reports we hear every Yuletide, this one cracked us up. "Officials at a Massachusetts elementary school have reportedly reversed course after considering canceling a trip to see 'The Nutcracker,'" writes Billy Hallowell of The Blaze.

Butler Elementary School in Belmont, Massachusetts, has long sent its second-grade students to see the Tchaikovsky children's ballet. However, that tradition came under fire amid local atheists' complaints over the musical presentation's religious themes, WHDH-TV reported.

It's one thing to have to come to the rescue of Christmas every year -- a task moviemaker and superstar Kirk Cameron has undertaken in his new film "Saving Christmas" showing nationwide -- but now we have to defend the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy?

What exactly is religious about "The Nutcracker?" As the curtain opens in the musical extravaganza, family and friends have gathered to decorate a beautiful Christmas tree. Darling kids are summoned  -- and stand in awe of the sparkling lights and decorations. But nothing religious has happened yet!

A party begins on stage and the young actors -- traditionally local amateurs in tights and tutus debuting with professional ballerinas and danseurs -- show off their dance moves, then march in step. Adults show off their toe-dancing skills and amid much music, presents are given out to the children. (Nothing religious yet!)

An owl-topped grandmother clock strikes eight and a mysterious toymaker shows up with four lifelike dolls who dance to the delight of all.

Sweet little Clara is delighted with the toymaker's wooden nutcracker. Naughty little boy Fritz breaks it. Clara is heartbroken. That night, she slips downstairs to check on it as the clock strikes midnight! Dancing mice fill the room. The Christmas tree grows to dizzying heights. A battle breaks out between gingerbread soldiers, dolls and mice. The nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince who leads Clara through a forest with dancing snowflakes. (Have you spotted anything religious yet?)

Enter a lot of dancing candy and waltzing flowers as Clara twirls happily with the prince before the curtain falls.

The play is a December tradition -- much like making a fuss over Christmas has become. That's so absurd, Cameron notes in "Saving Christmas" -- after all, this should be a wonderful time of celebration!

In Massachusetts, the bickering broke out after the school’s PTA debated canceling this year's field trip to watch the ballet -- after complaints about the ballet's religious messages. Parents supportive of the musical drama protested, baffled that anybody would confuse "The Nutcracker" with a nativity scene.

The emergency meeting was called, dramatic speeches were given. It was decided “The Nutcracker” will continue after all.

But nobody ever managed to explain what is religious about Tchaikovsky's magical ballet.

Wisemen at the U.S. Postal Service!

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In a joyous seasonal surprise, the post office unveiled this year's Christmas stamp -- and it's "an image that features a biblical scene that is ingrained in the traditional story of Jesus Christ’s birth," reports Billy Hallowell at the Blaze. United States Postal Service

Do you suppose somebody at the U.S. Postal Service took Kirk Cameron to heart -- particularly his appeal in the movie "Saving Christmas" to remember the real reason for the season?

"Saving Christmas" is now playing in select theaters nationwide.

The stamp, which the U.S. Postal Service says features a scene from “one of the most beloved stories of the Nativity,” is available for purchase on USPS.com.

"The Christmas Magi Limited Edition Forever stamp, which was released on Wednesday, features the three Magi riding on camels and following a bright star as they make their way to visit the Christian savior. The word “Christmas” is displayed in the lower lefthand corner, as USA Today reported.

“The stamp art illustrates the traditional tale of the Magi, who came bearing gifts for Jesus. The three regal figures sit atop a trio of bedecked and harnessed camels, the animals almost at the summit of a small hill,” reads the stamp’s official description. “Guiding them is a large, dazzling star shining in the sky … The star, located in the upper left-hand corner of the picture, is a brilliant white.”

"The Christmas Magi stamp isn’t the only holiday-themed design to be unveiled this year," writes Hallowell, "as a new Rudolf-inspired option was also newly added to the postal service’s website — and other more secular designs are available as well, including stamps featuring snowmen and wreaths.

"Other holidays like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are also represented."

The wisemen-themed stamp is only the latest Christ-centered emblem to come from the U.S. Postal Service. Here are two of the other options from past years:

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See all of the holiday stamps here.

If you can't stand Christmas joy, at least sign your name!

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If you're gonna yell "Bah, humbug," at least don't hide behind an anonymous Christmas letter, says a Massachusetts family whose massive display lights up their neighborhood each Yuletide. "Every year for the past four decades, the Hunters have erected a big Christmas display outside their home in Newton, Mass.," writes Billy Hallowell for The Blaze.

Last holiday season, the family received an unsigned letter from somebody claiming to be a disgruntled neighbor declaring they didn't want to see the Hunters’ faith on display.

“Not everybody in the neighborhood is Christian and many people do not wish to see such a flagrant display of your beliefs,” the letter said.

Beyond Tasteless: Anonymous Neighbors Send Hunter Family a Virulent Letter Lambasting Their Faith Based Christmas Decorations

"In addition to calling the family out for their religiosity," reports Hallowell, "the letter also deemed their decorations tacky, calling them 'beyond tasteless.'

“You are of course free to worship as you believe, celebrate as you please, and free to have bad taste, but please have the good sense to do these things in the privacy of your own home,” said the anonymous letter.

Not very Christmasy, notes TV and movie star Kirk Cameron, who is releasing a new movie Saving Christmas on November 14. The film looks at the modern practice of pooh-poohing Christmas joy.

Kelly Hunter told WHDH-TV her family is Christian and they just enjoy celebrating their faith. She called whoever is behind the note cowardly.

“Wish they could have said who it is, sign your name to it,” she said.

Beyond Tasteless: Anonymous Neighbors Send Hunter Family a Virulent Letter Lambasting Their Faith Based Christmas Decorations

In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” members of the Hunter family said the letter came as a surprise -- and is a little suspicious -- because their neighbors have always been supportive of the display.

“It makes a lot of people happy. We don’t do it for selfish reasons, we do it for everybody,” one family member explained.

Oddly enough, the letter was postmarked from Boston, 11 miles away from Newton.

The display tradition was started by Kelly Hunter’s father, William Hunter, a local firefighter who is now deceased, the Newton Patch newspaper reported.

The Hunters say they will continue to keep the tradition alive, saying they won’t let the unsigned letter bring down their Christmas spirit.

After all, a real Grinch would at least sign his name.