The Religious Right’s War on the ‘War on Christmas’ Is Well Underway

Mat Staver in a Liberty Counsel video explaining its annual "Friend or Foe" Christmas campaign.

Just as stores start playing Christmas music long before Thanksgiving, religious right groups do not wait for the start of Advent season to start complaining about the supposed “war on Christmas” by the nation’s retailers. Anti-LGBTQ legal group Liberty Counsel launched this week its annual “Naughty and Nice” list, which is meant to steer shoppers away from stores that rely too much on “Happy Holidays” messaging and not enough on “the true Reason for the season.” The list is part of the group’s “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” which promises to be a “Foe” to those who try to “censor” Christmas.

Liberty Counsel is also promoting a Prager U video published a few years ago in which right-wing propagandist Dennis Prager explains why saying “Happy Holidays” is not, as you might think, an inclusive approach to the holiday season in a diverse society. Instead, he claims that not using the word “Christmas” is “hurtful.” Prager portrays public-facing employees as being afraid to use the “C-word” for fear of violating “all the sensitivity training they’ve had to undergo.” Prager insists, “Of course it’s a war on Christmas,” which he says is really “a war on the religious nature of America.”

To evaluate the credibility of Liberty Counsel’s campaign, consider the case of Target, which Liberty Counsel designates as “Naughty,” under the heading, “Companies that silence and censor Christmas.” Here’s how Target is described on the list:

This large store has surprisingly few mentions of “Christmas” but has references to “pack your season full of merry” and offers “seasonal ugly sweaters” and a “secret gifting room.” Christmas is mentioned but it is not a main focus. You can contact Target at [phone number] and encourage them not to be so bashful about Christmas.

To evaluate the Liberty Counsel’s charge that Target is one of the companies that “silence and censor Christmas,” I scrolled through the company’s website. It’s true that it includes references to the holiday season, but it also features Christmas prominently. Here’s what silencing and censoring Christmas looks like at Target:

Religious right activists are grateful for President Donald Trump’s brave leadership bringing them the freedom to say “Merry Christmas,” which has helped them turn the corner in the war on the war on Christmas. Jim Bakker just reminded his viewers how awful things were under the oppressive pre-Trump regime when it was against the law for stores to offer Christmas greetings.