U.S. Postal Service Announces Holiday Shipping Deadlines

The U.S. Postal Service is gearing up to help customers ship 15.5 billion cards, letters and packages in time for Christmas.

It’s also aiming to cash in on the holiday by offering festive stamps, packaging and even gift cards.

To make sure your package is delivered on time, the agency suggests sending gifts a little early.

Taking advantage of the Postal Service’s online postage and free package pick-up may help as well.

To ensure that holiday mail and packages are delivered in time for Christmas, the Postal Service recommends the following mailing and shipping deadlines:

Dec. 2 – First-Class Mail International

Dec. 2 – Priority Mail International

Dec. 10 – Priority Mail Express International

Dec. 15 – Standard Post

Dec. 17 – Global Express Guaranteed

Dec. 20 – First-Class Mail

Dec. 20 – Priority Mail

Dec. 23 – Priority Mail Express

Colorado School District Sued for Participating in Christian Charities

Last week the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a lawsuit claiming that officials from various schools in the Douglas County (Colorado) School District used their official positions to endorse and sponsor two Christian evangelical missions groups, Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child and Adventures in Missions, and their proselytizing efforts.

The lawsuit alleges that a number of Douglas County Schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by participating in an Operation Christmas Child event during their annual canned-food drives.

Operation Christmas Child is a charity mission run by Samaritan’s Purse, which is an evangelical organization under the direction of Franklin Graham. Volunteers can donate shoeboxes filled with small gifts to be distributed to children in need in underprivileged nations.

Adventures in Missions, is an organization that plans and organizes missions trips all over the world. Two Douglas County schools were alleged to have wrongly participated in an Adventures in Missions trip to Guatemala.

In a statement issued to The Christian Post, Randy Riddle, Domestic Director for Operation Christmas Child, said that the operation is available to all who want to donate shoeboxes, and that includes public school students and teachers.

“Our purpose is to show God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world. We do this by distributing millions of shoebox gifts to hurting kids to let them know that they are not forgotten,” the statement said. “Operation Christmas Child is open to anyone who chooses to participate in this Christmas project.”

The AHA maintains that the school officials’ involvement Christian ministries suggest that the schools favor Christianity over the other religions.

“The public school district seems to be on a mission to promote Christianity, using taxpayer dollars for evangelical and missionary purposes,” legal director of AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, David Noise, said in a press release. “As state entities, public schools must educate students in a neutral environment, not push one particular religious belief.”

The lawsuit specifically mentions the efforts of teachers and principles of Sky View Academy and claims they endorsed the proselytizing message of the Operation Christmas Child. Children that receive shoeboxes from Operation Christmas Child also receive an evangelizing booklet entitled “The Greatest Gift of All.”

The lawsuit also claims that for the last few years two other area schools, Chaparral High School and Flagstone Elementary School, participated in Operation Christmas Child, along with Sky View Academy.

The lawsuit notes an email was sent to staff of Chaparral High from a social studies teacher in charge of the school’s canned food drive that indicated incentive for kids to participate in Operation Christmas Child.

As for the case of the push for participation with Adventures in Missions, the lawsuit also specifically points out that in March of 2014, Cougar Run Elementary School and Highland Ranch High School’s sponsored a mission trip to Guatemala that was organized by Adventures in Missions. The trip was also sponsored by the schools’ Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The suit also claims that two teachers from Highlands Ranch went on the trip with students and engaged in evangelical activities and also had dinner with a pastor and his wife.

The lawsuit claims that Cougar Run Elementary donated proceeds from its school newspaper to support the trip to Guatemala. The school told parents that the trip was connected to the school’s sixth grade Latin American social studies curriculum.

“This effort was born out of desire for our sixth grade students to make real-world connections with their Latin American social studies curriculum,” a flyer states, which was passed out by Cougar Run officials to students and parents regarding the donation effort supporting the Guatemala trip.

Federal Workers Want the Day After Christmas Off

Most people do not know that Christmas as a national holiday in the United States came about because of a labor dispute with federal workers. Society at large hardly worked on Christmas in 1870 and federal workers were jealous that they didn’t get the day off with pay like their private sector counterparts. So they started a petition and eventually it was made law. Christmas is on the federal calendar and has been since 1870 because federal workers were upset.

They are mad again. They want more time off. Their reasoning is this: Christmas falls on a Thursday this year and, just like in 1870, a majority their private sector counterparts get the day after Christmas off, giving them a four day weekend. Federal workers want that too.

So they have filed a petition with the White House asking for executive action. Given the breathtaking pace at which President Obama has taken executive orders the chances are pretty good this will be signed so he can get back on the golf course.

Experts say the odds of federal workers being successful at this are pretty slim considering the extra day off won’t really save the government much money.

Utah Town Brings Halloween and Christmas to Sick Little Boy

In a close-knit Utah town where time has become a precious commodity for one family, the Christmas lights are already up and Halloween is in full swing 10 days early.

The town of West Jordan has come together to ensure that a 4-year-old boy with only a short time to live gets to make the most of it. Ethan Van Leuven has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for more than half of his life, and doctors have declared that his illness is no longer treatable.

“So the doctors basically said, he’s got two days to a couple of weeks left to live, and so that’s when we thought we would make the most of the last days he has remaining with us,” Ethan’s father, Merrill Van Leuven, told Joe Fryer on TODAY Friday.

On Tuesday night, the community of West Jordan celebrated Halloween 10 days early as Ethan put on his Superman costume and went trick-or-treating. Two days later, the town held a parade in honor of Ethan’s fifth birthday, one month before the actual day.

“Ethan’s having a blast,” his mother, Jennifer Van Leuven, told Fryer. “It’s so much fun to watch his face light up.”

The week of holidays will continue on Friday when the community celebrates Christmas Eve, with everyone on the block putting up Christmas decorations. A local radio station is even switching their format to Christmas music for the day.

“We know that it is a real tough time for them,” one neighbor told Fryer. “We want to be there for them.”

The family and community are aiming to make every moment special for Ethan in his final days. On Saturday, they will celebrate Christmas, Ethan’s favorite holiday.

“It’s a really difficult time, but this just makes it a little bit easier just to see how many people love and support,” Jennifer said.

Dude, There’s Christmas Creep in California

The CBS affiliate in Southern California cannot believe it. Christmas is everywhere and, dude, customers are, like, baffled, confused and angry.

Check out this incredible local report about how bad Christmas creep is in SoCal.

Then check out the facts.

South Coast Plaza is a mall in Costa Mesa that every year gets one of the largest Christmas trees in the country — in October. It isn’t new.

Why do they do it every October? Because trying to get it inside the mall in November is a real pain due to….all the Christmas shoppers.

If CBS LA bothered to do any real reporting they would have talked to the mall and learned that. Other media seems to get that it is a 33-year tradition that makes the news every year.

The reporter claiming “Christmas creep is everywhere” couldn’t help but noticing Costco decorations for sale already. Memo to reporter: Dude, they’ve been for sale since August.

He wraps up the report by suggesting that if you don’t want to see decorations, go to Nordstrom’s — which is really funny because Nordstrom’s never sells Christmas decorations.

Even better, he says that 10 years ago retailers never did this type of thing.

Talk about a journalistic hack.

Schools Under Fire Again for Aiding Christian Relief Organizations

A media report about a West Virginia middle school participating in a charity event serving a Christian-based relief organization in West Virginia has led to threats of potential legal action tied to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

An individual claiming to be associated with the FFRF has told DefendChristmas.com this will be addressed by legal teams.

This is not new. Last year several high profile media stories put the spotlight on schools participating in Operation Christmas Child, perhaps the most famous Christian relief organization using schools to pack shoe boxes full of hygiene items and small gifts for third world countries.

The argument from groups protesting school participation or threatening lawsuits against them is that the relief organizations use the boxes and the effort to proselyte. By participating in the effort schools are violating the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, they argue.

In the story from West Virginia above the relief organization is Appalachian Outreach, an organization who describes its efforts as “Guided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit”. According to the news story school time was used to support the effort. “We have the students volunteering here, their time during their phys. ed. classes and health classes to wrap Christmas presents here for Appalachian Outreach,” said Moundsville Middle School teacher, Mike Sforza.

Don’t be surprised if this story hits the media following a letter threatening a lawsuit against the school board over Moundsville Middle School in West Virginia.

A New England Christmas

This is an awesome little video — hardly seen on YouTube but worthy of watching by anyone wanting to feel the Christmas spirit. Great photography of iconic New England Christmas scenes set to a cheery music track that features nothing commercial and sends only a message of “Merry Christmas”. Enjoy!

Toys R Us Pulls Breaking Bad Action Figures

Christmas gets blamed for a lot of stuff. But this is a new one.
Toys R Us sells more at Christmas than any other time of the year. Every fall they get new merchandise they think will sell during the season. This year they got action figures based on the hit show Breaking Bad. The problem? A character in the show is a drug dealer, he has an action figure and he’s accessorized with guns, a bag of cash and some of his signature mix of meth. One reader of Defend Christmas made the giant leap that Christmas is now responsible for glamorizing drug use to children.

Well, everybody can relax now. Toy R Us pulled the toy and Christmas is now, once again, safe for kids.

The whole hubbub began by parents protesting via a Change.org online petition for Toys R Us to remove the ill-conceived toy. (Believe it or not, the toy industry makes this kind of mistake all the time). After more than 8000 signatures Toys R Us got the hint.

At first, Toys R Us claimed that the dolls were in the adult action figure section of the store, and would only be sold to children ages 15 and older.

Apparently, there are adults who buy action figures. Apparently, 15 year olds are adults. But then, looking at a potential loss of sales, Toys R Us caved and took the figures off the shelf entirely.

Those who disagree with this Florida Mom can still buy the figures on Amazon and other online sites not affiliated with Toys R Us. So people can still buy their drug dolls and blame Christmas for it.

Idina Menzel Christmas Preview

Tis the season for new Christmas music videos based on new albums coming out. One of the biggest this year comes from Frozen screecher Idina Menzel, who, we’re sad to report, can’t look more awkward on video than she does on this one. They do throw Buble in there for the ladies but it didn’t seem to loosen up the cardboard that Menzel is. Talk about frigid. She certainly sounds better than she looks: