The 2012 Ebenezer Award Goes To…

Image: The 2012 Ebenezer Award Goes To…

Presenting this year’s most ridiculous affront to Christmas and Hanukkah…

For Immediate Release:  December 18, 2012
Media Contact: Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is pleased (well, sort of) to announce the recipient of our lowest honor, the 2012 Ebenezer Award, which is given annually to the public figure responsible for the most ridiculous affront to Christmas and Hanukkah.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE……..The 2012 award goes to Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. Governor Chaffee was embarrassed last year when a flash mob showed up to the lighting of his Holiday Tree and defiantly sang “O Christmas Tree.”  To avoid a repeat this year, he announced the lighting ceremony only 30 minutes before it happened.  Heaven forbid the joyful singing of “O Christmas Tree” would happen again by the tree…at Christmas time. As Wall Street Journal’s Bill McGurn explains:

 “In this time of peace on Earth and good will to men, we give thanks for the little things that help to make the season bright: chestnuts roasting on open fires, tiny tots with their eyes all aglow—and the entertaining progressive pageant that is Lincoln Chafee at Christmastime.”

Notable 2012 dishonors also includes:

  • Our friends in the city of Santa Monica, California, who mothballed a nativity scene that had been displayed in a city park for over a half century. Our own Eric Rassbach was quoted in a Deseret News article about the controversy. In a somewhat happy ending, pro-Christmas folks got around the ban by staging a live nativity in the same park.
  • The Navy in Bahrain, which directed service members to dismantle a “Live Nativity” following an atheist complaint.

However, not all is lost this holiday season. This 2012 Becket Fund Eggnog Toast goes to the State of Pennsylvania for reinstating their Christmas tree after 30 years, and the management of Newhall Senior Home for repenting and rescinding its decision to take down the Christmas tree from the community room because it was a “religious symbol.”  Good decision, Newhall.

Notable previous Ebenezer recipients include: 

  • (2011) U.S. Post Office, for banning Christmas Carolers. Despite Benjamin Franklin’s command, as founder of the Post Office, to “always live jollily; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas,” the carolers fell victim to the ridiculous policy that you are not allowed to sing Christmas carols on government property.
  • (2009) Commissioner Tyler Moore, of Kokomo Indiana, who replaced a traditional display with one featuring the Loch Ness monster, a woodpecker and a fire truck;
  • (2002) the Virginia Beach bureaucrats who tried to ban a local charity’s free turkey giveaway; and
  • (2000) the city manager of Eugene, Oregon, who issued a five-page, single-spaced memo banning Christmas trees from any “public space” in the city.

The Becket Fund has continually fought attacks on Christmas and Hanukah, including:  successfully defending a public school in Utah that was sued for including religious songs in its holiday concert; successfully defending two cities in New Jersey when the ACLU sued to have their holiday displays taken down; and successfully defending the federal government’s decision to make Christmas a federal holiday, which resulted in a memorable court opinion opening with an amusing poem.

So, while it is still legal, we wish you: A Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah and a Happy New Year!

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at ehardman@becketfund.org or call 202.349.7224.

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*Photo used by permission, Los Angeles Daily News