This year’s ‘War on Christmas’ looks a little different in a pandemic
Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
- Conservatives have fought back against the “War on Christmas” since the early days of former President Barack Obama’s administration, but the phrase has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020 as Americans face their first COVID Christmas amidst renewed restrictions.
- Governors have enforced new lockdown measures for the Christmas season, prohibiting Americans from gathering together to celebrate the holidays and forcing businesses and restaurants that are already hurting to shut their doors during the busiest season of the year.
- Fox News host Tucker Carlson has suggested that “power-hungry leaders trying to cancel Christmas” because Christmas is “bigger than they are.”
Conservatives have fought back against the “War on Christmas” since the early days of former President Barack Obama’s administration, but the phrase has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020 as Americans face their first COVID Christmas.
Governors like Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have enforced new lockdown measures for the Christmas season, prohibiting Americans from gathering together to celebrate the holidays and forcing businesses and restaurants to shut their doors during the busiest season of the year.
CNN host Jake Tapper asked Dr. Anthony Fauci in mid November if “Christmas is probably not gonna be possible,” a question that angered many social media users. Obama was formerly criticized for waging a supposed “War on Christmas” through exclusion of the word “Christmas” or Christmas symbols — but the idea that lawmakers could cancel Christmas suggested a much more real war on Christmas to conservatives.
The war on Christmas is back!
Tapper: “Christmas is probably not gonna be possible.”
— Barstool News Network (@BarstoolNewsN) November 15, 2020
“I have news for him,” tweeted evangelist and missionary Franklin Graham. “Christmas is going to be celebrated by millions around the world bc it isn’t about gatherings—it’s about Jesus Christ. As Christians, we celebrate that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ This is what Christmas is about—#COVID doesn’t change that!”
They tried to cancel Thanksgiving. Didn’t work!
They’re coming for Christmas next.
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) November 27, 2020
Fox News host Tucker Carlson has suggested that “power-hungry leaders” are trying to cancel Christmas because it is “bigger than they are.”
“This year, of all years, Christmas has a deeper resonance, maybe closer to its original meaning,” Carlson said in an early December monologue. “In a time of crisis, you inevitably start thinking about things you might otherwise ignore if you are busier and more content, things like, what is the purpose of all of this? What matters most in my life? And what happens when it ends?”
Carlson insisted that “we take our leaders seriously when we are reminded that they are just people” and remember that if “they too will pass, all of us will.”
“If death is inevitable — and that may be the one thing you are not allowed to stay in this country, but it’s still true — then maybe we should pause before we destroy the living in the name of trying to eliminate it,” he continued. “Politicians understand this threat. They’ve figured out that Christmas is bigger than they are, and therefore, it is a threat to them. Better cancel it.”
Carlson also aired a clip of Fauci urging Americans to avoid “congregate settings.”
“What Fauci is saying here in English is that you need to avoid going to church,” Carlson said. “You need to avoid your own family.”
“You need to spend Christmas alone,” Carlson added.
Religious services are fundamental to many Americans’ observation of Christmas: for example, Catholics observe Christmas as a Holy Day of Obligation centered around attending mass at church.
Gallup polling released in early December found that only those who attended religious services weekly saw a positive change between 2019 and 2020 in how they rated their mental health. No other Demographic group in the Gallup poll saw a percentage increase in rating their mental health as excellent.
“Houses of worship and religious services provide so much more than just a weekly meeting place — they are where so many Americans find strength, community, and meaning,” the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Director of Research Caleb Lyman told the DCNF at the time.
The Gallup poll results are particularly striking in contrast to Democratic lawmakers’ restrictions on houses of worship. Governors and mayors across the United States have issued orders throughout the pandemic that restrict or prohibit religious services, and the Department of Justice has pushed back against such restrictions on multiple occasions. And as Christmas approaches, lawmakers restrictions have sparked anxieties in many Americans that they will be unable to attend church on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day itself.
D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory filed a lawsuit in early December against D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser accusing the Democrat of “arbitrary” and “discriminatory” restrictions on churches ahead of Christmas.
“Under both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the District’s arbitrary, unscientific, and discriminatory treatment of religious worship is illegal,” the lawsuit said.
“As Christmas fast approaches, the District has imposed arbitrary 50-person caps on Mass attendance—even for masked, socially-distant services, and even when those services are held in churches that can in normal times host over a thousand people,” the lawsuit said.
Bowser later backed down and eased restrictions on churches, allowing D.C. churches to be filled to 25% capacity or 250 persons.
The United States Supreme Court sided against Newsom’s restrictions on worship services in early December after the court sided with religious organizations challenging Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions the night before Thanksgiving, calling the New York Democrat’s measures “discriminatory” in its injunction for emergency relief.
“The Court’s majority made clear that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause is not to be carelessly trampled upon but rather vigorously protected,” Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino told the DCNF in early December.
Becket named both Cuomo and Newsom, along with Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, as runners up for the foundation’s Ebenezer Award for “everyday scroogery” which consists of “barring the doors of houses of worship and turning Americans out into the cold innkeeper-style this Christmas and Hanukkah.”
Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam lowered the number of people who may gather in Virginia to 10 people or less ahead of Christmas, sparking anxieties that he would also restrict churches and houses of worship. The governor clarified that this order did not apply to churches, but urged those who wish to continue worshipping in person to stay home and practice recommended safety measures.
“This year, we need to think about what is truly the most important thing,” Northam said. “Is it the worship or the building?”
“For me, God is wherever you are,” Sisolak said. “You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers.”
Critics of Northam’s comments pointed out that in-person attendance at religious services is a fundamental aspect of worship for many religions, particularly Catholicism.
Fake Christians truly, deeply don’t understand Christianity. https://t.co/XGkcZPFXMn
— Christopher Bedford (@CBedfordDC) December 10, 2020