America used to be a Christian nation.
Christmas used to be a religious holiday. But atheists and others who don't like Christianity began a "war on Christmas" to remove religious references from public view. For decades, the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island annually displayed a nativity scene on the property of a local non-profit organization. In 1983 local grinches filed a lawsuit asking the Christmas symbols to be removed. The grinches claimed that Americans in 1789 had adopted a constitution which gave the federal government power to order a local town to remove religion from private property.
At that time, the Supreme Court did not have the guts to say "Christmas is unconstitutional." It ruled that the Nativity Scene was constitutional -- but for all the wrong reasons.
The reasoning was similar to an earlier federal appeals court which heard the challenge of an atheist to the phrases "In God We Trust" and "so help me,God." The court ruled "against" the atheist by saying that the word "God" has no religious meaning, but is purely "secular" and "patriotic." Of course, if it had been shown to be religious, it would be "unconstitutional." The same reasoning is used in the Ten Commandments cases: if the display of the Ten Commandments presents the commandments as the Word of God, or something that viewers should actually obey, then the display is "unconstitutional." But if the display presents the Ten Commandments as an out-dated historical relic that doesn't in any way cast contemporary aspersions on the moral character of thieves, liars, adulterers, murderers, or anyone else in Washington D.C., then the display is all-American and "constitutional."
So the Supreme Court in the 1984 Pawtucket case ruled that the Nativity Scene ("creche") was "Constitutional" because there was also
a Santa Claus house, reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh, candy-striped poles, a Christmas tree, carolers, cutout figures representing such characters as a clown, an elephant, and a teddy bear, hundreds of colored lights, a large banner that reads "SEASONS GREETINGS," and the creche at issue here.
Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, at 671.
All these secular goodies diluted the religious impact of the creche enough that the display as a whole was sufficiently secular and commercial to withstand the challenge by the atheists.
So there! Take that, you atheists you!
In 1989, a similar case returned Christmas to the Supreme Court, and this time the Court said the Nativity Scene was "unconstitutional" because it was obviously trying to imply something naughty, like that Jesus Christ was a "Lord" and "Savior." (The Menorah was OK though.)
One might think that the "War on Christmas" would be over once the Nativity Scenes are all gone. Nope. Now those candy-canes, reindeer, and even the colors red and green spark distant memories of a religious holiday of some sort, and so even these once-secular but now vaguely-religious things must be excluded in the name of "inclusiveness," and freedom suppressed in the name of "religious liberty" and "the first amendment." Threats of lawsuits by well-funded ACLU-types clearly have many school administrators in terror. "Christmas vacation" is now "winter holidays." Etc., etc.
Some people doubt that there is a war on Christmas at all; they say it's just the creation of the rumor-mills at FoxNews. But when presented with the evidence, they retreat to "well, you don't have to be Christian to find this more than a little silly," as if modern church-state doctrine is not horrifyingly contrary to the religious outlook of America's Founding Fathers, but just something "silly" and inconsequential that people who believe in "Liberty Under God" shouldn't worry about.
The "war on Christmas" is just a superficial symptom of the larger war on Christianity led by Washington D.C.
David Chilton (1951–1997) wrote a great essay for the Chalcedon Report years ago entitled "Let's Keep Christmas Commercialized." I reprinted it on my website in 2003 and was going to post it again here, but I just discovered that American Vision has put out a nice version with prettier graphics than I can come up with, so please read it here.
No, really; you're not done reading yet. Click the link.