Liberty Counsel has launched its 21st annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign that is designed to educate and, when necessary, litigate to ensure religious viewpoints are not censored from Christmas and holiday themes.
Liberty Counsel monitors cases each year across the country where there is intimidation by officials and groups to remove the celebration of Christmas in public and private sectors.
In public schools, classroom discussion of the religious aspects of the holidays is permissible. A holiday display in a classroom may include a Nativity scene or other religious imagery. Public school music teachers have the freedom to include both religious and secular Christmas songs in their musical programs. If the students select their own songs independent of the direction of school officials, there is no requirement that the songs include secular selections. Students may distribute religious Christmas cards to their classmates during noninstructional time, before or after school, or between classes. If the students are not required to dress in uniform, they may wear clothing with religious words or symbols as well as religious jewelry.
Liberty Counsel also provides a Naughty and Nice List that catalogs some of the stores that are censoring Christmas and some that are publicly celebrating it.
Years ago, Walmart had banned its employees from even responding with the phrase “Merry Christmas.” Now the company has moved to the “Nice List,” by embracing the Christmas season. Thankfully, many other companies have done the same to acknowledge Christ’s birth during the season. Dillard’s, Hobby Lobby Stores, JCPenney, Staples and Kohl’s are some examples of stores on the “Nice List” for acknowledging Christmas and offering Christmas gifting options. Barnes & Noble, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gap, TJ Maxx, and others are on the “Naughty List” for censoring Christmas and instead offer little more than generic “holiday” decorations and gifts. Notably, Target remained on the “Naughty List” by going “all in” on woke decorations. Target’s inventory includes “Pride Christmas Nutcracker” figures sporting a “pride” hat and flag, as well “Pride Santa” dolls and a black Santa in a wheelchair. However, several stores improved their approach to “Christmas” this year and got off the “Naughty List.” Academy Sports + Outdoors, and Lord and Taylor both joined the “Nice List” in 2023 by incorporating more Christmas themes and gifts into their products and advertisements.
As stores in the retail industry take different approaches to doing business during the Christmas season, religious expression in the public square has recently taken a step forward. In 2022, two cases involving religious liberty went to the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted in the Court eliminating the “Lemon Test.” The “Lemon Test” was a judge-made standard used to determine whether a law violated the First Amendment Establishment Clause. For 51 years, this so-called “test” was used to remove religious symbols and displays, such as The Ten Commandments and Nativity Scenes, from the public square.
Then on May 2, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the “Lemon Test” in Liberty Counsel’s 9-0 victory in Shurtleff v. City of Boston where the Court ruled the City violated the Constitution by censoring a private flag in a public forum open to “all applicants” merely because it was a “Christian flag.” Nearly two months later on June 27, 2022, the High Court in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, officially overruled the “Lemon Test” in favor of a football coach’s right to private, religious speech in silently praying on the football field after games. These cases now make it unlawful for the government to censor religious expression, symbols, or displays in public.
Last week, city officials in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin emailed guidance to employees to refrain from using “traditional” Christmas decorations in public buildings, specifically red and green colors, to “foster a more equitable and inclusive community.” Administrators suggested using “neutral” and “non-religious” decorations, such as “snowflakes” or decorations inspired by the “Northern lights” with colors like “blue, green, and purple” to avoid “favoring any particular belief system.” Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the city administrator responsible for the email demanding an immediate retraction of the ban on Christmas decorations.
In the letter, Liberty Counsel stated, “The First Amendment does not permit the City to eliminate Christmas holiday symbols or expression in a misguided attempt to be ‘inclusive’ by eliminating all traditional elements of expression regarding a federally and state recognized holiday.” After receiving the demand letter, Wauwatosa officials quickly backpedaled and issued new guidance to the employees. The new communication now states that employees “are free to decorate in the manner they have historically decorated or alter their decorations to be more inclusive at their discretion.” In other words, as the law requires, these employees can decorate as they wish without the threat of punishment.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The First Amendment protects religious viewpoints from being censored by the government. Religious symbols and displays consistent with the Christmas holiday season are appropriate and constitutional on public property, including in public schools. Christmas is a recognized federal and state holiday. It makes no sense to pretend it does not exist or that the holiday should be stripped of Christian symbols and themes.”