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(Originally published December 18, 2005)
Ah, December. 'Tis the season when most of us are thinking about opening gifts under brightly-lit trees. Of kissing someone special under the mistletoe. Of eating, drinking and making merry. And, above all, of hoping for peace on Earth and goodwill to all.
But in 2007, on what ought to be the most festive time of the year, "goodwill to all" still appears to be in short supply in America among certain conservatives, who continue to rail against what they perceive as a so-called "War on Christmas" because of what appears to be a lessening in recent years of the Christian symbolism of the holiday.
A Bremerton, Washington man decided to make a statement by nailing an effigy of Santa Claus to a 15-foot-tall cross and hoisting the crucified Santa in his front yard.
Art Conrad says he has an issue with the commercialism of Christmas, and acknowledged to The Associated Press that his protest has gone way beyond just shunning the malls or turning off his television. "Santa has been perverted from who he started out to be," Conrad said. "Now he's the person being used by corporations to get us to buy more stuff."
A photo of the crucified Santa adorns his Christmas cards, with the message "Santa died for your MasterCard."
But the display is also Conrad's way of expressing his displeasure at what he thinks is "political correctness" in the increasing secularization and de-emphasis of the Christian aspects of the holiday. He believes Christians aren't expressing their true feelings "because they're afraid of what other people might think."
Conrad's neighbors, however, weren't afraid to express their feelings about the crucified Santa. Some were offended and others were concerned about its impact on young children. But most were just curious.
"I don't really know what to think," neighbor Jake Tally told the local newspaper, the Kitsap Sun. "I know it's about God, but Santa has nothing to do with it."
Flap on Capitol Hill in '05 Over Naming of 'Christmas' vs. 'Holiday' Tree
It was just two years ago when leaders of the then-Republican-controlled House of Representatives, including then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, were in a tizzy over the congressional tree that was lighted on the Capitol grounds the night after Thanksgiving being called the "Capitol Holiday Tree" -- as it has been for the past couple of years -- instead of the "Capitol Christmas Tree."
After a hue and cry from conservatives, the House Republican leadership pushed through a resolution to henceforth officially call it the "Capitol Christmas Tree."
This tempest in a teapot under the Capitol dome would have been dismissed as just another typical venting of partisan Washington hot air, were it not for a certain conservative-leaning 24-hour cable TV news network-- or, more specifically, its top-rated prime time talk-show host.