The war on Christmas goes global

But the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, preached by religious extremists.

Published December 21, 2006 7:35PM (EST)

The "war" against Christmas knows no borders. According to a story from the Cybercast News Service, in the United Kingdom, Santas have to undergo a criminal background check if they're going to be anywhere near children.

The news comes from an intriguing juxtaposition of sources. I depend on the Cybercast News Service for all my up-to-date coverage of Nativity bannings, protests against Santa appearing at public schools, and attempts to mandate "Happy Holidays" as the required greeting between any two humans, organizations or vertebrate animals. But CNS's latest tale of outrage is generated by a group in the U.K. called the Manifesto Club, a free-speech outfit that aims "to challenge the cultural trends that restrain and stifle people's aspirations and initiative" and "to renew the spirit of the Enlightenment: to champion our capacity to think and judge things for ourselves." The Manifesto Club's beef is with U.K. child protection laws that appear to have gotten completely out of hand.

So here's the twist. The Cybercast News Service usually focuses on cases where the dividing line between church and state has resulted in what it sees as anti-Christian behavior. But the Manifesto Club doesn't care a whit about that -- its problem is with a society that has let unreasoning fear get the upper hand on common sense. And if you want my holiday opinion, the same religious figures in the United States who do the most blathering about the war against Christmas are the same people who preach a gospel of fear and intolerance that encourages the kind of mutual distrust and hyped-up ignorance that result in ridiculous child protection laws.

As the most recent example of this un-Christian behavior, one has only to consider the outrageous racist outburst sent by Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode to his constituents this week about the horrifying possibility of more Muslims entering this country. Driven to new heights of xenophobic bigotry by the news that new Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is going to pledge fealty (in a private ceremony) to the U.S. using a Quran rather than a Bible, Goode called for an end to illegal immigration, a reduction in legal immigration, and a rollback of "diversity visa policies" pushed by President Clinton. (Never mind that Ellison traces his American ancestry back to 1742!)

"The Ten Commandments and 'In God We Trust' are on the wall in my office," declared Goode, attempting to establish his bona fides as a true Christian. And he did just that, if his intent was to equate Christianity with hate, intolerance, racism and stupidity. What part of "Love Thy Neighbor" don't you understand, Congressman?

The good folks at the Cybercast News Service ought to take a hard look at what the Manifesto Club is actually saying, and think about whether its own practice lives up to it.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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