US lawmakers once again fight 'war on Christmas'

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Santa may already be riding his sleigh around the globe doling out gifts, but that did not stop United States (US) lawmakers and conservative groups on Tuesday from warning of efforts to sabotage Christmas.

Some members of Congress and religious organisations perennially complain of a movement, embracing the concept of separation of church and state, that is attacking the message of the Christmas season.

This month, in an example of what some have called the "war on Christmas", schoolchildren in Texas were prevented from delivering "Merry Christmas" cards to military veterans because they violated a Veterans Administration policy against specific religious phrasing.

President Barack Obama's official White House card meanwhile makes no mention of Christmas, instead noting the "joy of the holidays".

To counter what they see as attacks on Christmas, House of Representatives Republican Doug Lamborn and 36 other lawmakers introduced a resolution saying "the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate" the holiday.

"There is a vocal minority that is offended at the rest of us who want to celebrate Christmas," Mr Lamborn told Fox News on Christmas Eve, urging people to "not put up with these bans."

Mr Nick Rahall, one of two Democrats to sign on to the non-binding resolution, put it succinctly.

"To substituting time-honored greetings like 'Merry Christmas' with empty phrases such as 'Happy Holidays' - I say bah humbug," Mr Rahall said.

The Faith & Freedom Coalition cited a "festivus pole" of beer cans, erected next to a manger with baby Jesus on government property in Florida, as an example of how nativity scenes are being mocked nationwide.

"All of this controversy in America is an attempt to minimize Christmas to just another American federal holiday with no more or no less significance than any other federal holiday," said the group's national prayer coordinator, Ms Regina Brown.

One Republican running for Congress in 2014 said the recent kerfuffle over the rant about gays and non-Christian cultures by Phil Robertson, star of cable TV show Duck Dynasty, was yet another sign of a national shift toward outright "persecution" of America's Christians.

"I don't believe it's gotten to the point yet," Mr Ian Bayne told Talking Points Memo last week.

"But I do believe that Phil believes and I believe that we will wake up in an America where if you walk around with the bible you could be arrested," he said.

US broadcaster Fox News has reported extensively on the apparent "war on Christmas", producing an interactive map showing where Christmas has been given a bad rap.

But leading televangelist and preacher Joel Osteen went on Fox News Sunday and poured cold water on the theory.

"I think there are certain groups that would like to" take the religious meaning out of Christmas, but "I'm probably not as concerned about it as some others," Osteen said.

"Not everybody believes like me," he added. "We're not all Christians in this nation."

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