The Extremely Profitable “War on Christmas”

In its constant search for any phony non-issue that it can cite as evidence that Christians in this country are under attack, last year the Right fabricated the idea that there was some sort of “War on Christmas” that was supposedly tied to some “liberal plot” that was behind everything from efforts to legalize gay marriage to opposition to Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Having exploited the issue for all it was worth last year, the Right began ramping up this year’s efforts back in August and looks to be planning on riding the issue straight through until the end of the year. 

While the Right claims that they are merely seeking to thwart an “accelerating effort by secularists in America to annihilate expressions of Christmas and Christianity,” its effort to generate a controversy where none exists has been a rousing success – in more ways than one:

For Conservative Christian groups, this year’s hot gift is a weapon for fighting back in the “War on Christmas,” be it a button, a bumper sticker or a memo with advice to the troops.

The Mississippi-based American Family Association says it has sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper stickers bearing the slogan “Merry Christmas: It’s Worth Saying.”

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal aid group that boasts a network of some 900 lawyers standing ready to “defend Christmas,” says it has moved about 20,000 “Christmas packs.” The packs, available for a suggested $29 donation, include a three-page legal memo and two lapel pins.

And Liberty Counsel, a conservative law firm affiliated with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, says it has sold 12,500 legal memos on celebrating Christmas and 8,000 of its own buttons and bumper stickers.

The conservative Christian groups declined to provide all the numbers behind their Christmas efforts, but some did disclose how many items they had sold and distributed.

Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based Christian legal group, has shipped 20,000 “Christmas packs” this year, said spokesman Greg Scott. The value of the “goods and services” included is $4, receipts show. The rest of the money goes into ADF’s general fund, Scott said. A majority of the packs were sold for less than the suggested $29 donation, he added, though he declined to provide details.

By its own accounts, 2006 has been a very good year for the American Family Association. Through mass e-mails and other forms of public pressure, the Mississippi group says, it “forced Wal-Mart … to stop donations to homosexual groups.” AFA also says it convinced the television network NBC to pull “the anti-Christian program ‘The Book of Daniel'” and cut a scene from a televised concert in which pop star Madonna sings from a crucifix.

AFA raised the flag in the “Christmas wars” in August by criticizing “holiday” catalogues. Benefiting from the early start, the association sold more than 500,000 buttons and 100,000 magnets encouraging supporters to “be an unspoken witness for Christ’s birthday.” The “Merry CHRISTmas” magnets were available for a $3 suggested donation; the buttons were $7 for a pack of 10. Bulk rates also were offered.

Wildmon, while declining to give specifics, said the products brought in a “slight profit.” The project was so successful, he said, he plans to make Easter buttons this year.

“It’s a pleasant surprise,” he said. “It allows us to do a few more things.”

Orders are also brisk for Liberty Counsel’s Help Save Christmas Action Pack, said Staver, the group’s president. The $25 pack includes “The Memo that Saved Christmas,” which offers legal advice on celebrating the holiday at work and in public schools, along with buttons and bumper stickers.

The nonprofit law firm also offers the buttons separately. Costing 40 cents to make, they’re sold 10 for $10 and at bulk rates, Staver said.

Basic math says the Liberty Counsel has pulled in an estimated $300,000+, the Alliance Defense Fund an estimated $500,000+, and the American Family Association an estimated $600,000+ from selling their “War on Christmas” wares.