Baby, It’s Cute

We got ourselves into a little trouble last month when the preview to Idina Menzel’s Christmas album video came out and we called it “awkward”. Somebody must have heard us. The video below of Menzel’s duet with Michael Buble of Baby It’s Cold Outside not only keeps Menzel off the screen and keeps the vocals first — it’s cute as the Dickens and starting now to sweep through social media.

We also know that they’ve diffused some of the controversy behind this song, changing up a few of the lyrics and making the male “wolf” a bit less predatory than the original lyrics suggest:

FFRF Goes After Snow Plows in Sioux Falls

Two snow plows painted by a local school as part of the Sioux Falls annual ‘Paint the Plow’ event might not make it out on the street this winter.

One group is challenging the city.

City Hall soon will be decorated for the holidays but one group is attempting to fight city hall on just how much government can get into the Christmas spirit.

The group Freedom From Religion Foundation or FFRF recognizes several state and local government buildings are decked out for the holidays.

Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott said “the courts have looked at displays and have said a Christmas Tree is something that is permissible, proclaiming the birth of Jesus is something that is impermissible for the government to do.”

It”s why the group has an issue with these city snow plows decorated by a local school.

“They’re basically a roving billboard. I think citizens in the community would perceive a problem with it if a plow said ‘praise Allah, or there are no gods.’ That’s city equipment. It’s moving around the city basically all winter,” Elliott said.

Now those plow will come with a disclaimer.

Mayor Mike Huether said “we prefer utilizing compromise and common ground and common sense vs. the court system to resolve issues we have.”

Even after the Christmas season is over, some may argue religious symbols are part of our daily life, whether it’s on our money or in our Pledge of Allegiance.

“We think those things are problematic as well. The courts obviously haven’t agreed on a number of those things and when they’ve addressed those, they’ve more so been allowed because of their history,” Elliott said.

The group Freedom From Religion Foundation says it has about 10 other cases it’s working on challenging the separation between church and state as a violation of the Constitution.

Band Aid, for Better or Worse

This video, this song, this re-do for whatever reason is controversial. 30+ years after the first Band Aid song came along to benefit the poor and hungry of Ethiopia the focus is now the dreadful Ebola virus tearing through West Africa. So this song was shuffled a little and redone for an all new purpose this Christmas. It doesn’t appear to be getting the love it once did oh so long ago.

Why?

2nd Grader Wants to Pass Out Candy Canes Again

Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a request for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Wednesday, November 12th 2014. The injunction, if granted, will prohibit the West Covina Unified School District from stopping seven-year-old Isaiah Martinez from passing out candy canes to his classmates with the candy cane legend attached during the Christmas season.

Last Christmas, Isaiah Martinez took Christmas gifts intended for his first grade teacher and classmates at Merced Elementary in the West Covina Unified School District. Each gift consisted of a traditional candy cane with a message attached that recited the legend of the candy cane. The legend references a candy maker who created the candy cane to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ.

When Isaiah brought his Christmas gift to school, his teacher took possession of the candy canes. At the direction of the school principal, the teacher instructed Isaiah that “Jesus is not allowed in school” and she removed the candy cane messages from each candy cane, threw the messages in the trash, and handed the candy canes back to Isaiah for delivery to his classmates. Isaiah then nervously handed the candy canes to his classmates in fear that he was in trouble for trying to bring a little Christmas cheer and “good tidings” to class.

The case is already in federal court after the parents of Isaiah Martinez felt the school violated their son’s right to freedom of religious speech.

Robert Tyler, lawyer and General Counsel, explained their decision to file a federal law suit saying, “the school has neglected to correct its actions, and after exhausting all options to avoid a lawsuit we were left with no choice but to file a complaint in federal court. We are asking the court to protect Isaiah’s rights and the rights of others like him from having their religious speech censored. Students do not shed their First Amendment rights just because they enter into a classroom.”

In January the story garnered attention from major news outlets including Fox, Univision, and NBC.

Attorney James A. Long, legal counsel with Advocates explains the injunction is necessary “because the West Covina Unified School District has made clear that the only theology allowed in the classroom is the government’s theology, it has given every indication that it will again prohibit Isaiah from passing out the candy cane legend at his school’s holiday party in the name of ‘religious neutrality,’ Isaiah’s constitutional rights will be violated again this year unless the Federal Court grants Advocates’ request for a preliminary injunction.”

Advocates claims the school has no legally viable reason for suppression of the speech, such as disruption, profanity or vulgarity or evidence that the schools conduct would be seen as advocating a particular religion.

Michigan Shapes Up as Battle Ground Over Nativity Scene

Michigan state officials are considering whether a Christian Nativity scene and a counter-display from a secularist group should join the state Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn this holiday season.

The State Capitol Commission on Monday agreed to contract with the Michigan attorney general’s office for a part-time staff attorney over six months for $37,000. The attorney would advise the commission on various issues, including the request to place a representation of the birth of Jesus at the state Capitol.

Commission member John Truscott said he expects the office will approve the Nativity with the same conditions as demonstrations that are frequently held on the grounds. He declined to say who made the request.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation based in Madison, Wisconsin, said Tuesday it would request a counter-display if the Nativity is approved.

The displays would have to be taken down daily.

AFA Takes Aim at Companies that Will Not Say Christmas

It’s a holiday tradition — er….a Christmas tradition! The American Family Association has published their annual “naughty and nice list” of retailers who won’t use the word Christmas in their advertising or public relations efforts. The big offender this year: Petsmart, a perennial abuser of the holiday versus Christmas tug of war.

When it comes to Christmas retailers just can’t win. Those brave enough to advertise early have to endure charges of Christmas creep. While those who don’t use the word Christmas get labeled for being politically correct or anti-Christian.

This year’s list appears to be similar to the list the AFA has published for years now. Barnes & Noble, Limited Brands, Office Depot — these are the same folks always on this list.

But does the lack of use of the word Christmas make them anti-Christmas? Really?

And what about the word holiday. Does using that word constitute an absence of acknowledgement of sacred days of observance?

And what of those who do liberally make use of the word Christmas in their ads? Can we rightfully say, as the AFA claims, that these companies “celebrate” Christmas? What part of putting the word “Christmas” in an ad is acknowledging the sacred OR secular celebration of Christmas?

We ask these questions not because we don’t support use of the word Christmas. We just think it is continued absurdity to define Christmas so narrowly. The AFA has been at this for years. And while the list of who is naught and who is nice has most decidedly changed — with more moving to the nice list as the AFA has harped on this issue over the years — has it really affected any kind of change?

Has it been helpful in the “war on Christmas”? Has the embracing of Christmas helped those companies who are nice to be successful? Has being on the naughty list adversely affected those who are on it?

The answers to these questions, of course, is no.

The AFA is not promoting the “peace and goodwill” that is Christmas. They continue to be harsh voices in the “war on Christmas” by focusing on the wrong things. They should be promoting the real messages of Christmas: charity, goodwill, peace and understanding.

They appear to be doing just the opposite of that.

Million Dollar Christmas Tree

Article Lead - wide6334984611pt49image.related.articleLeadwide.729x410.11pt1y.png1416371473694.jpg-620x349The City of Geelong in Australia might not be familiar to many parts of the world. But a million dollar investment in a floating Christmas tree can certainly help put them on the map.

It will cost the struggling City of Greater Geelong about $1 million over five years, including construction, storage and maintenance.

Some locals, including city councilors, argued the money could be better spent.

But Geelong Mayor Darryn Lyons said the tree, which he said was the tallest in Australia, would bring tourism to the city.

“If we get 10 per cent increase in tourism, that’s $10.8 million coming in,” he said.

“Six councilors voted against this and I had to put the deciding vote, so it was one of those political decisions I desperately want to make.”

Councilor Lyons said now the tree was in place, he was confident people would enjoy it.

“Gauge the reaction from the kids that have been late from school, the mums and dads, the grandparents who’ve come up to me and said, ‘it’s my 70th birthday, you couldn’t have given me a better birthday present,” he said.

“We need to be a town of a shining light.”

Peanuts 2015 Preview

In the absence of any real film of substance this Christmas it is refreshing to see a little glimpse of what has been rumored for Christmas 2015 for some time. Mashable talked about it today and lo and behold the trailer magically appeared a short while later. Watch:

That being seen…what are your thoughts about seeing Peanut in CG animation?

Is it just me or is the slick look a step back in Snoopy charm?

Ohio Christmas Village Train

For all the fun that commercials, new Christmas music videos and other professional schmaltz is we still love the homegrown Christmas best. Here’s a new video posted of a Christmas village put up just this past week featuring trains, trains and more trains. Fun: