Residents fighting back in war on #8216;Christmas#8217;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

Is there a war on Christmas? Some Lawrence Countians think so and they aren’t afraid to voice their opinions about it.

And while nationally, other Americans are vocal on the issue, others said in a recent survey they are more worried about the commercialization of the holiday than any efforts to make it less spiritual.

Stories in the national media recently focused on large chain stores that have purportedly asked their employees to substitute the greeting “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” a greeting that is supposed to be less offensive to those who do not celebrate the Christian holiday.

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There have also been reports of stores that offered “holiday trees” instead of Christmas trees.

Such stories anger Mary McGuire of Ironton.

“I think it’s terrible if you take Jesus out it,” she said. “It’s a shame a few atheists want to take Christ out of Christmas. I’d say half or more than half of us are Christians like I am. I just don’t think it’s right. I think if more Christians would stand together and protest it might make a difference.”

The Rev. Mike Long, pastor of Sugar Creek Baptist Church, agrees.

“To me, it’s amazing that people who make millions of dollars off of Christmas are so quick to turn their backs on Christmas,” Long said.

“If we aren’t celebrating Christ, what are we celebrating? Why are we celebrating?”

The discussion even came up earlier this month at a Lawrence County Commission meeting. Lawrence County Commissioner George Patterson said he thought his colleagues, Doug Malone and Jason Stephens would agree that “Happy Holidays” could never replace “Merry Christmas” as the season’s greeting.

“All my Christmas cards say ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and God bless you,’” Patterson said.

He contended with the U.S. population overwhelmingly Christian, only a small percentage of the population is pushing the issue of a Christ-less Christmas holiday.

“It’s a sad situation,” Patterson said. “This is such a special time of year.”

According to a recent national poll, more Americans are concerned about the commercialization of Christmas than about restrictions on public displays of religious symbols. The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they were troubled by the commercialization of the holiday, while just 35 percent expressed concern about opposition to public religious displays.

Nationwide, 54 percent of respondents said they were not concerned at all about the controversies surrounding the displays, according to the poll.

If given the choice, a majority of those surveyed said they would prefer being greeted with ‘‘Merry Christmas’’ rather than ‘‘Season’s Greetings’’ when they entered stores over the holidays. However, 45 percent said the greetings were of little consequence to them.

The telephone survey of 1,502 adults nationwide was conducted Dec. 7 through Dec. 11 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.