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America's Right rallies to protect Christmas

Julian Borger



Fireworks over the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan. The tree should be called a Christmas tree rather than being labelled a holiday tree as it is now, the Republican-controlled Senate said in a resolution on Wednesday. — PHOTO: AP

Washington: The appearance of Santa Clauses, fir trees and fairy lights are a sure sign that it is combat season once more in America's culture war. But this time it is a do-or-die battle, some of the nation's best-known conservatives are warning.

They claim there is a stealthy ``war on Christmas'' under way, and they are gathering their forces, mostly lawyers and talk-show hosts, to fight back.

They argue that Christmas has become almost a dirty word in a politically correct society, where ``merry Christmas'' is being replaced by ``happy holiday'' on greetings cards and public displays so as not to make people of other faiths feel excluded.

The backlash this year has been particularly furious. The Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, led a successful campaign to have the 25-metre fir erected outside Congress this winter named a Christmas tree, rather than a euphemistic holiday tree. Even President George W. Bush has come under fire from traditional supporters on the Christian Right for sending out 1.4 million White House greetings cards which fail to mention Christmas.

The picture on the card portrays the presidential pets sitting in the snow outside the White House, and inside it offers ``best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness''. The White House greetings card has been secular for 13 years. The last President to send explicitly Christmas greetings was George Bush's father, in 1992. But this year, conservatives have decided to make a stand.

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel has spearheaded the media offensive. One of its leading talking heads, John Gibson, claims the assault on Christmas has reached ``a shocking level this year''. —

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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