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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Cultural Intimidation by the Religious Right

Below on this page: In the News | Disingenuous Claims of Persecution of Christians | Training for the "Culture Wars" | Disingenuous Claims of Victimization: the NYC Nativity Scene Suit | The Left Behind Books and Video Game | Debate on Christian right about Harry Potter books | Harry Potter character outed as gay

The Christian Right's war against America's pluralistic society is not waged by politics alone. Over the past three decades, conservative evangelicals have fought aggressively to bring their brand of Christianity into the public schools and the public square. They also have waged a campaign to make their worldview an acceptable - if not yet dominant - force in mainstream culture.

Bullying minorities into accepting public display of Christianity is not "unconstitutional." But it is definitely chilling, especially to Jews who hear in the triumphalism of the religious right echoes of Nazi street thuggery. It is also a saddening reversal of the diversity our society was achieving in recent years.

This section of the JewsOnFirst website is dedicated to covering the frontlines of the culture wars. You'll find links to stories about the increasing inroads religious conservatives are making in media coverage, movies and TV --and, most frightening of all, their efforts to inculcate and recruit children to become "foot soldiers for Christ".

Please note: you will find more material on cultural intimidation in the subsection "Cultural Intimidation by the Religious Right: How Jews See It."

SECTION: Bullying the Media

Reports on the religious right's bullying of the media to censor content. Please click here.

SECTION: The "War" Over Christmas

Led by Fox News personalities and religious right organizations, this war involved bullying retailers and public officials into replacing the inclusive term "holidays" with "Christmas." The trumped-up campaign discomforted Jews and other minorities. Click here for the Christmas "War" section.

SECTION: At the Movies

In this section you'll find our coverage and clippings collections of films by, for and about the religious right, including: Facing the Giants, a Christian-themed film whose PG rating the religious right protested; Jesus Camp, a documentary about the indoctrination of children at a Pentecostal camp. Please click here.

Jesus Christ Superhero

By Rob Walker, New York Times Magazine, October 7, 2007

David Socha had a problem with the toy aisle: Too many dolls for girls promoted promiscuity, and too many action-figure collections for boys included villainous demon types — or “spawns of Satan,” as he puts it. “The bigger subject is that evil is glorified,” he says. “Like it’s kind of cool to break the Ten Commandments and do things that even 20 years ago people wouldn’t think about promoting — just being as violent and overt as possible.” Socha, who happens to be in the toy business himself, figured that enough parents felt this way to make up a market. And among the retailers with some faith in that notion was Wal-Mart, which this summer began selling Biblical figures made by Socha’s company in more than 400 of its stores. Continue.

In 2006 the Marines' Toys for Tots program gave out several thousand "one2believe" talking Jesus dolls made by Socha's company. Click here.

Harry Potter character outed as gay

Twist in the Tale: Outing Dumbledore sparks fierce debate
J.K. Rowling is back at the centre of a fierce debate after revealing Harry Potter's mentor is gay

Raju Mudhar, The Star (Toronto, Canada), October 23, 2007

Writer J.K. Rowling's revelation about the gay private life of a dead – and fictional – school headmaster in her popular Harry Potter series of books is conjuring both criticism from those who already wanted the books banned and calm acceptance from those who applaud her for not making it a big deal in the first place.

The Harry Potter series is already the most challenged series of publications this century, according to the American Library Association, and Rowling's outing of the beloved Albus Dumbledore at a reading at Carnegie Hall last week has only added to the furor. Continue.

Seven clues that 'Potter's' Dumbledore was gay
"Albus Dumbledore" is an anagram of "Male bods rule, bud!"

Column by Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2007

The Potter-verse was thrown for a loop when author J.K. Rowling announced she had always imagined one of the main characters in the "Harry Potter" series -- Albus Dumbledore -- to be gay.

Even the most diligent "Harry Potter" scholars found themselves caught unaware. But could anyone have seen this coming? Did Rowling leave any clues in the book?

To find out we called Andrew Slack, head of the Harry Potter Alliance, an organization that uses online organizing to mobilize more than 100,000 Harry Potter fans around social justice issues, drawing on parallels from the book. Slack is incredibly fluent in "Potter" textual analysis, and we knew that if anyone could predict Rowling's curveball, it would be him. Continue.

Outing Dumbledore

John Cloud, Time Magazine, October 25, 2007

When J.K. Rowling said at Carnegie Hall that Albus Dumbledore--her Aslan, her Gandalf, her Yoda--was gay, the crowd apparently sat in silence for a few seconds and then burst into wild applause. I'm still sitting in silence. I feel a bit like I did when we learned too much about Mark Foley and Larry Craig: you are not the role model I'd hoped for as a gay man.

Yes, it's nice that gays finally got a major character in the sci-fi/fantasy universe. Until now, we had been shut out of the major franchises. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a rich supply of homoeroticism into The Lord of the Rings--all those men and hobbits and elves singing to one another during long, womanless quests. The books and their film versions feature tender scenes between Frodo and Samwise. But in the end, Sam marries Rosie and fathers 13 children. Thirteen! Got something to prove, hobbit?

Other fantasy worlds have presented gay (or at least gay-seeming) characters, but usually they are, literally, inhuman. George Lucas gave us the epicene C-3PO and the little butch R2-D2, and their Felix-Oscar dialogue suggests the banter of a couple of old queens who have been keeping intergalactic house for millenniums. But their implied homosexuality is quite safe. There is no real flesh that could actually entangle. Similarly, there was a girl-on-girl plot in 1995 on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but let me spare you a fanboy summary by noting merely that the two girls weren't girls--they were gender-complex aliens called Trills--and they only kissed. Continue.

Idle worship

Christopher Stevens, Guest Editorial, Southern Voice, November 2, 2007

So Albus Dumbledore has been outed, albeit posthumously, the poor, closeted old thing. You’d think gays would be more welcome at Hogwarts, wizards themselves being a misunderstood minority. No doubt, as in most minorities, the wizard-rights activists wanted to work on their main goal before addressing the rights of the doubly despised homos among them.

Of course, the Muggle explanation is that author J.K. Rowling had enough trouble being a satanic influence on innocent kiddies. If she’d worked the homo angle in to the books, she’d have lost sales, poor, struggling girl that she is. Every million counts when you have children to feed.

But in either world, Dumbledore ended up doing what gay people have always wanted to do: He achieved success in his chosen field without controversy about his sex life, which had nothing to do with his career. Whatever his predilections, Dumbledore is known foremost for his accomplishments as a great wizard, just as Margaret Thatcher is remembered less for being the first woman Prime Minister of England, and more for what she did as P.M. Granted, a lot of what she did was horrible, but even at that, she achieved the dream of all minorities — recognition for what she did, not for doing it as an interesting test case. Continue.

He’s Out! We’re Proud?

Rick Lopez, New York Blade.com, October 26, 2007

The latest celebrity outing isn’t the result of media hounding or use of the f-word, but it does involve a book character who’s been flying under the gaydar for years.

Last Friday, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling dropped a bombshell at Carnegie Hall by telling fans that Albus Dumbledore, the influential headmaster—no jokes, please—of the young wizard’s magic academy is gay.

By all accounts, it wasn’t just another morsel of inside knowledge she has offered readers during her worldwide book tour. It almost sounds like blogger Perez Hilton offering another snarky assessment of Clay Aiken.Continue.

Dumbledore Waves the Rainbow Flag

Ben Shapiro, The Conservative Voice, October 24, 2007

I am not a fan of the Harry Potter series. Nonetheless, I, like every other sentient human being, know something about Harry Potter. Most of my friends are fans. My three younger sisters are fans. I've seen the movies. I've read small portions of several of the books.

So when J.K. Rowling announced last week that Albus Dumbledore, the aged headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was gay, I was somewhat confused. When did the old dude with the funky beard turn into Gore Vidal?

According to Rowling, Dumbledore was always Gore Vidal. At a Carnegie Hall reading, one of Rowling's fans asked whether Dumbledore had ever found "true love." "Dumbledore is gay," Rowling gleefully responded. Dumbledore was apparently in love with his rival, Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard. "Falling in love can blind us to an extent," Rowling explained. Dumbledore's homosexual crush, Rowling stated, was his "great tragedy." Rowling went on to label the Harry Potter books a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and told her fans to "question authority." Continue.

Outing Gives New Meaning to Passages About Harry Potter Wizard Dumbledore

Hillel Italie, Associated Press, The Advocate.com, October 23, 2007

With author J.K. Rowling's revelation that master wizard Albus Dumbledore is gay, some passages about the Hogwarts headmaster and rival wizard Gellert Grindelwald have taken on a new and clearer meaning.

The British author stunned her fans at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Friday night when she answered one young reader's question about Dumbledore by saying that he was gay and had been in love with Grindelwald, whom he had defeated years ago in a bitter fight.

''You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me,'' Dumbledore says in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in Rowling's record-breaking fantasy series. Continue.

Ramone Johnson's Gay Life Blog
JK Rowling Reveals Gay Dumbledore

Ramone Johnson blog, About.com, October 22, 2007

JK Rowling pulled another one out of her bag of tricks the other day when she announced that Hogwart's Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (played by Sir Michael Gambon) is not only gay, but was involved in a twisted good versus evil love affair with rival Gellert Grindelwald. (full story)

Having your love interest turn evil is bad enough. Imagine having magic involved in the actual breakup? "Falling in love can blind us to an extent," Rowling told a packed Carnegie Hall. (It sounds like she's been reading Mona's love advice column.)

Slashers have long suspected Dumbledore to be gay, but most were focused on Harry Potter's sexuality. I'm sure Rowling and the Potter crew will continue to get backlash for her Dumbledore outing, but doesn't evil always lurk in the shadows of something good? Continue.

Dumbledoring Down the Culture
A Culture and Media Institute review of 125 stories on Nexis from Friday through Tuesday turned up only one source – an online Scottish edition of The Express – that included a single critic of Rowling’s decision. The rest either took a neutral line or liberally quoted activists who hail the fact that Dumbledore’s likeability and moral authority will help sell acceptance of homosexuality.

Robert Knight, Culture and Media Institute, October 24, 2007

Just when you thought it was safe to immerse kids in books about witchcraft, J.K. Rowling has to succumb to political correctness and “out” Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

This is well after the fact, of course. Her seven Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies and made her a billionaire. So why make Dumbledore, a beloved authority figure to millions of kids, out to be homosexual?

No one can plumb Rowling’s motives except God Almighty. Some suggest that her announcement last Friday at Carnegie Hall is merely a promotional ploy. The news may well lead to another run on the book series, with sexually confused kids and the Village People desperately seeking clues to Dumbledore’s closeted adventures. Continue.

Debate on Christian right about Harry Potter books

Dr. Dobson: 'What I Think About Harry Potter'
Focus on the Family's Chairman responds to recent misinformation in the press.

Focus on the Family, nd, ca. July 30, 2007

Dr. James Dobson wants all friends of Focus on the Family to know about an error involving him that appeared on Page 1 of Wednesday's Washington Post. In a story about Christians' views on the Harry Potter books and films, reporter Jacqueline Salmon wrote that "Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books."

This is the exact opposite of Dr. Dobson's opinion — in fact, he said a few years ago on his daily radio broadcast that "We have spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter products." His rationale for that statement: Magical characters — witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists and so on — fill the Harry Potter stories, and given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture, it's difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds. Continue.

Paper Withdraws Claim That Dobson is a Harry Potter Fan

Bob Allen, Ethics Daily, July 27, 2007

A major newspaper backed away from declaring Focus on the Family founder James Dobson a fan of Harry Potter, despite articles on Dobson's Web site which fellow fundamentalists have long attacked as "conditional acceptance" of the hit fantasy film and book series that some Christians fear leads children into witchcraft.

The Washington Post promptly corrected a story saying the Christian family guru "has praised the Potter books" after the Focus on the Family Web site publicly challenged the newspaper's facts. Continue.

(A Bit Less) Positive About Potter
How Focus on the Family, Prison Fellowship, and others have—and haven't—changed their views about the books over the years.

Ted Olsen, Christianity Today, July 26, 2007

"Harry Potter books and films have been attacked in the past by evangelicals for allegedly glamorizing the occult," say the papers. But Christians "are now eschewing condemnation for praise, embracing Ms. Rowling's tales as powerful religious fables for our time."

It's a narrative as fictional as the Potter books themselves. In late 1999, I noted that, contrary to media reports, no major Christian leader had spoken against the Harry Potter series, and several had actually supported the books. Some readers were upset with my summary, but the most prominent critic they could come up with at that time was Texas pastor John Hagee. Four books and five films later, it's time for an update to that piece.

One of the most prominent evangelical supporters of the series in 1999 was Charles Colson. "The magic in these books is purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic," he said in his BreakPoint broadcast. "That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls, and turn themselves into animals—but they don't make contact with a supernatural world. … The plots reinforce the theme that evil is real, and must be courageously opposed. … [Harry and his friends] develop courage, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice for one another—even at the risk of their lives. Not bad lessons in a self-centered world." Continue.

Evangelist says Bible speaks to Potter series 'white magic'

by Ed Thomas OneNewsNow.com via NewsBull.com, July 24, 2007

It is no coincidence that a Christian ministry has updated its comic book parody of the "Harry Potter" series in time for the latest Potter movie and book releases. Evangelist Tim Todd, who heads up Revival Fires International, says both the church and the secular world need to understand the danger for children and teens in embracing occult literature. Continue.

Redeeming Harry Potter
The initial Christian outcry against the boy wizard seems to be dying down. Maybe that's because more and more of us are discovering multiple redemptive themes in the series.

Commentary by Russ Breimeier, Christianity Today, November 15, 2005

I was recently interviewed on live radio about current movies, and when asked which I was looking forward to the most, I rattled off a few of my obvious choices—including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which opens this week.

"Uh oh," said the host half-jokingly, "you've just lost half our audience." I was then asked to justify how a Christian could possibly accept and endorse a series of books and films that promotes the occult. Looking back on my fumbled response, I can't help but think of that verse in 1 Peter about being prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks.

Harry Potter remains a hot potato, polarizing Christians left and right because of three words: wizards, witches, and magic. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 warns us to avoid engaging in pagan rituals and sorcery, and for sure, Christianity and witchcraft don't mix.

But in the last five years, I've noticed a gradual attitude shift toward Harry Potter among Christians. Though many still condemn the series—and anyone who approves of it—they seem to be diminishing in number even as others write in praise of it. In my interactions with other Christians from all over the U.S, I'm finding more indifference—and even enthusiasm—in recent years than condemnation, regardless of region or denomination. Continue.

Is Harry Potter merely entertainment?

Column by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press, June 2, 2004

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)--"I love Harry Potter. I think it would be so cool to be a witch," Sharon, age 11, says.

That's my answer to anyone who says J.K. Rowling's adventure series is harmless fantasy.

While the Harry Potter book and film series has held a hypnotic fascination for youngsters, its thematic foundation is troubling. Arguably, perceptive children can view such material without succumbing to the snare of the occult, but it would be naive to think that movies and TV programs containing witchcraft are not aiding the rise of Wicca in our culture. Continue.

Harry Potter: Politically Ccoorrrreecctt Paganism!

Jan Markell, The Olive Tree Ministries, observed in late 2007

There is a cultural mania going on that could dwarf the “Star Wars” phenomenon. He’s the nerdy Harry Potter of the Harry Potter book series by author J.K. (Joanne) Row-lings. The astounding statistics include some 30 million books sold, and a translation into 35 languages. It will make Rowlings one of the richest women in the world.

In brief, hero Harry is orphaned when his parents are killed by an evil wizard named Voldemart. From that ordeal, Harry receives a lightning bolt mark on his forehead. He is then placed under the care of “evil” relatives, who have no occult ties whatsoever. On his eleventh birthday, there is a dramatic change in Harry’s life, when he is accepted into the Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft, a coveted boarding school for aspiring wizards and witches.

Magic, fairy tales and fantasy usually go together. In the past, magic was associated with villains, but in the Harry Potter books, all that is magic is lauded, including over 60 practices forbidden in the Bible. More on that later. Continue.

“The Gospel According To Harry Potter” Is A Different Gospel

Jan Markell, The Olive Tree Ministries, observed in late 2007

The latest excursion into the devil’s territory is now available at theatres everywhere for holiday entertainment. Enter at your children’s risk. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets targets children ages 7-12, though it should be rated PG13. It’s “Witchcraft 401” not “101.” Harry himself has said in numerous interviews, “This is a very dark movie.” He’s being honest—more so than he is in the books and movies where he continually lies, cheats, steals, and more, and is often rewarded for it. But then author J.K. Rowling was also honest. She said that her intention was to write about evil and she wasn’t going to lie about that. Since the Bible says we are to abstain from every form of evil (I Thess. 5:22), I am baffled why Christians spend money on the books and movies, praise it, and even write books on its supposed virtues.

Sure, Harry is trying to overcome evil, but he does so by utilizing occultic practices. Thus, he is using evil to overcome evil and in the end, the winner is—you guessed it—evil!

Popular author Connie Neal has now written two books praising the “virtues” of Harry Potter. Her first was What’s a Christian to Do With Harry Potter? Her new book is titled, The Gospel According To Harry Potter. She states in the early pages of the new book that it was partly inspired by Potter expert Wendell Amstutz and me, as I featured them in a debate form a year ago on my radio show, Saturdays, 10 AM on AM980, KKMS in the Twin Cities. Amstutz stated then that he had found 64 occult practices or themes in Potter forbidden in the Bible. Neal had to trump that by finding 80 ways in which she found the gospel in Harry Potter. She claims the books and movies can be used for witnessing tools to children, and she says she has led kids to Christ this way.Continue.

The Left Behind Video Game

Moderate Christians fight rapture with Sunday school

By Andrea Hopkins, Reuters, March 13, 2007

Cincinnati (Reuters) - Real estate agent Dave Eschenbach is an active member of his church, but he feels uncomfortable around a sizable portion of U.S. Christians -- those who believe they could be transported to heaven at any moment.

Several years ago, Eschenbach had a boss who scheduled meetings around the rapture, the term for an event that around 20 percent of U.S. Christians believe is imminent.

"One day he announced to the employees that they probably wouldn't be there next week because of the rapture," Eschenbach said of his former boss. "His church had decided that the rapture would happen that week." Continue.

Christians seek recall of Left Behind video game

by JewsOnFirst.org, December 5, 2006

A video game that arms young people to kill those who resist conversion to fundamentalist Christianity hits the market just in time for Christmas gift-giving. Was this bad judgment or was it deliberate?

The creator of the game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, makes clear that it was entirely intentional -- a smart business move to ride the $500 million surge of profit for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ with a new genre, "God Games." Left Behind Games, a publicly traded company, also anticipates a ready market among the millions who bought 63 million Left Behind novels; the game company holds the license to create games based on the books.

In contrast to the meetings, previews, media debates and warnings that preceded Mel Gibson's film, Left Behind: Eternal Forces has rolled out discreetly, apparently avoiding Jewish scrutiny. A coalition of progressive Christian groups held a news conference last week to warn of the game's perniciousness and call for its withdrawal from the market. Continue.

Leave 'Left Behind' behind
New Christian-themed computer game encourages players to help nonbelievers 'see the light'

Commentary by Noam Reshef, Ynetnews.com (Israel), November 29, 2006

Like the residents of southern Lebanon, computer gaming executives are used to living under fire. Whether the attackers are irate parents blaming American high school massacres on violent games or self-righteous politicians demanding that explicit sex scenes be removed, it seems that each day brings a new controversy.

However, this time the computer game industry is facing a brand new opponent: The liberal and secular Left. At stake is a game called “Left Behind”, which is based on the Book of Revelation, or, more specifically, a popular series of religious science fiction-adventure books.

“Left Behind”, a strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic world, can be found on the shelves of mainstream stores. Critics are up in arms over its overt Christian missionary content. Continue.

Statement of Frederick Clarkson and Bruce Wilson, Co-Founders, Talk2Action.org
This statement was distributed at today's press conference by Christian groups calling for the recall of the video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces. -- FC

Frederick Clarkson, Talk2Action.org, November 28, 2006

Last May, our colleague Jonathan Hutson posted a groundbreaking and shocking analysis of the then, forthcoming video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces. In the game, he reported, players control an end-times Christian militia that roams the streets of New York City, seeking to convert or kill New Yorkers. He also reported that the game indoctrinates children and young adults into an ideology of religious warfare, which may be expected in their lifetime.

We believe that the manufacturers should withdraw the game and apologize to their fellow Americans for the spreading, however unintentionally, of a base and dangerous brand of religious bigotry. Continue

Groups Join to Condemn Left Behind: Eternal Forces

Chip Berlet, Talk2Action.org, November 28, 2006

On Tuesday, November 28th, CrossWalk America in conjunction with the Christian Alliance for Progress (CAP) and other groups including Talk2Action will hold a press conference to condemn the Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game "that explicitly encourages 'Left Behind Christian Converts' to convert or kill a host of people deemed unfit for the Kingdom of God."

According to the press release: "In the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces would be rapture survivors are issued high tech military weaponry and instructed to engage the infidel in New York City. The mission? Convert or kill anyone not adhering to a Fundamentalist view of Christianity. This could include Catholics, Jews, Gays, Muslims and anyone who advocates the separation of Church and State, whether they are Christian or non-Christian." Continue

In the News

Focus cries foul on Liberty baseball bid
Springs group says 'pornographers' not suited to own Braves

By Joyzelle Davis, Rocky Mountain News, July 14, 2006

Focus on the Family is none too happy that John Malone's Liberty Media could be the new owner of the Atlanta Braves.

The Colorado Springs-based religious group is organizing a grassroots effort to stop the man it calls a "porn magnate" from acquiring the ballclub from Time Warner in a stock swap, citing Liberty's ownership of hotel-room movie service On Command. Continue

Disingenuous Claims of Persecution of Christians

The Summers of Our Discontent
Resignation of Harvard President Is Symptomatic of a Rising Intolerance That Pervades Our Public Institutions

Guest Commentary By Stephen M. Crampton, Center for Law & Policy, Agape Press, February 24, 2006

Crampton begins attacking feminism: "Larry Summers has finally resigned. The downfall of the Harvard president began last year, when he dared suggest that women might lack an aptitude for science and math. The irate faculty, feminist to the core, responded with a no-confidence vote from which Dr. Summers never recovered. And so Summers becomes the latest casualty in the Fourth Reich's tireless efforts to enforce uniformity of politically correct thought." He spends much of his piece venting homophobia, but always with the overriding theme that it's open war on Christians in "the Reich's war on dissent." His solution: "Deal with it." Click here for the article.

Training for the "Culture Wars"

Hartline's San Diego Conference Promises to Equip Christians for Culture Wars

By Mary Rettig, AgapePress, May 26, 2006

James Hartline, a Christian activist in California, is pointing fellow believers to an event taking place this Saturday in San Diego that he says will help equip them to fight in the culture war. He says the "Shake the Nation Conference" will feature speakers from all facets of life, sharing their experiences dealing with opposition to Christianity in society.

Hartline says many Christians today are seeing their free-speech rights violated on a regular basis, even as some of the Shake the Nation Conference presenters have. "We have been very diligent to bring together speakers on every area that we feel we are having a problem with in the culture," he says.

Therefore, the conference guests will address a number of the "obvious" topics for Christians in contemporary society, the activist notes, including "the legal issues, religious freedom issues," and the truth about America's Christian roots. "We're dealing with our religious heritage," he explains, "because it's important for people to be reminded that this country was based on a strong biblical religious heritage." Continue

See also: The Pacific Justice Institute, a right-wing legal group, has a list of conference topics on its website. (Please click here.)

Disingenuous Claims of Victimization: the NYC Nativity Scene Suit

Background: In 2002 the Catholic League represented by the Thomas More Law Center sued the New York City Department of Education over a memo that erroneously described the Jewish star of David and the Islamic star and crescent as secular symbols. The lawsuit demanded that the system also permit the display of nativity scenes. On February 2, 2006, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Education Dept.'s policy of permitting only secular seasonal symbols, making a distinction for the erroneous one-time classification. The case has gone all but unnoticed in the mainstream press. But the religious right has seized upon it as an example of hateful persecution of Christianity.

Nativity scene is too religious for New York City schools
The Supreme Court this week let stand rules that keep menorahs and Christmas trees in holiday displays – but not crèches.

By Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor, February 22, 2007

WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court has declined to enter the fracas over what some conservatives are calling the war on Christmas.

Without elaboration, the court issued a one-line order on Tuesday refusing to take up a potentially important church-state case concerning the use of religious symbols in public school holiday displays.

At issue in Skoros v. City of New York was whether the city's public school system is impermissibly promoting Judaism and Islam while conveying a message of disapproval of Christianity. School rules allow the Jewish menorah and the Muslim star and crescent in multireligious holiday displays but not nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus. Continue.

2nd Circuit upholds NYC policy on school holiday displays

By The Associated Press via the First Amendment Center, February 6, 2006

"NEW YORK - A federal appeals court panel has upheld a city policy on holiday displays for its schools that allows Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees and symbols of Jewish and Islamic holidays but prohibits Nativity scenes.

"The 2-1 ruling in Skoros v. City of New York on Feb. 2 by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a lower court judge who found that the city's policy of permitting secular symbols had the desired effect of neither advancing nor inhibiting religion.

"The appeals court concluded that no objective observer would believe it was the city's purpose to denigrate Christianity, even if the Department of Education erred in characterizing a Jewish menorah and an Islamic star and crescent as secular symbols.

"'No reasonable objective observer would perceive from the totality of the circumstances in this case that the purpose of the challenged display policy was, in fact, to communicate to city schoolchildren any official endorsement of Judaism and Islam or any dismissal of Christianity,' the court wrote." Click here for the report..

Christians in the Crosshairs

Family Research Council Washington Update via United Christian Word Ministries, February 7, 2006

"A three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has just issued a split ruling in Skoros v. City of New York that shows how actively hostile to Christians and Christianity elements of the federal judiciary and the liberal education establishment have become." Click here to read the article.

Appeals Court Upholds Nativity Ban in NYC Schools

by Susan Jones, Crosswalk.com, February 2006

(CNSNews.com) - A federal appeals court in New York ruled it's okay for New York City Public Schools to ban the display of Christian nativity scenes during the Christmas season, even though displays of the Jewish menorah and Islamic star and crescent are permitted during Hanukkah and Ramadan.

A conservative group that sued the school system over its policy said Christians should be outraged by the ruling.

The Thomas More Law Center challenged the ban on nativity scenes in December 2002, on behalf of Andrea Skoros and her two children, who complained that New York City's policy was violating their right to free exercise of religion. Click here for the report.

Federal Judges Uphold NYC Schools' Discriminatory Nativity Scene Ban

Allie Martin, Agape Press, February 6, 2006

"Several years ago the parents of two students in New York City public schools sued the school district over its policy that the display of secular holiday symbol decorations is permissible during the Christmas holiday season while display of Nativity scenes is not. Late last week, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled 2-1 in favor of the district's policy." Click here to read more.

Sharply Divided Court Upholds City's Anti-Christian Ban of Nativity in New York City Public Schools

Thomas More Law Center, February 3, 2006

It is worth noting that this posting, by the legal group that sued the New York City school system, has shrill overtones of Christian victimization: "Many federal courts are using the contrived endorsement test to cleanse America of Christianity. This unprincipled test allows judges to impose their ideological views under the pretext of constitutional interpretation. Thus, the majority opinion says it is legitimate to discriminate against Christians in the largest public school system in the country, with over one million students enrolled in its 1200 public schools and programs. This should be a wake-up call for Christians across this nation." Click here for the report, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

See also:A 2002 Associated Press report on the filing of the lawsuit. Click here.)