More from the War On Christmas front…
Over in the threads of my Real War on Christmas post, North wondered about the “secular bugaboos that the WOC crusaders do battle against.” Who exactly are these lawsuit Grinches? It’s a good question.
If there’s one thing that risk management has taught me over the years, it’s that people will take offense and file indignant lawsuits for all kinds of reasons, many of them pretty silly if not outright ludicrous. Atheist activists are no exception to this rule, and so I am certainly willing to take on faith the claim that some or even many anti-Christmas observance lawsuits are a joke.
That being said…
The WOC brouhaha drives ratings for conservative and liberal media alike, and this creates a bit of a problem: there just aren’t that many outrageous successful Christmas lawsuits to sustain an annual outrage cottage industry. To solve this shortage issue, the conservative media will often simply manufacture the stories. Do a little bit or research on a WOC story these days, and more often than not you’ll find that the facts originally reported aren’t as outrageous as the current narrative suggests.
Take the case of South Carolina’s East Point Academy.
If you watch Fox News, listen to talk radio or read conservative blogs, chances are you’ve already heard the story: For three years, the public charter school has held a Christmas toy drive for impoverished children in third world countries. The toy drive is held in conjunction with Operation Christmas Child, a project run by the non-profit Samaritan’s Purse. Recently a group of “humanist” busybodies decided that because Christmas and Christians are eeevil, the children from East Point should be blocked from sending charity to destitute boys and girls who have nothing. And let’s face it, even if you believe in the separation of church and state, this feels like a pretty s**ty banner for humanists to rally around. Is Samaritan’s Purse a Christian ministry? Sure. Is Christmas a religious holiday? Kind of. Still, skewering a charity toy drive on that basis seems pretty despicable and self-absorbed.
So, score one for the WOC crowd getting it right — yes?
Well, not exactly, because it turns out there’s actually more to the story than what is being reported in the conservative media.
The story initially broke nationally when Fox News contributor Todd Starnes reported on it last month, and that alone should give you pause. I have a half-written post from this summer that I am going to finish someday, where I make the argument that Todd Starnes is the single worst pundit of all time. It isn’t that he’s conservative, or that he’s on Fox. It’s just that he’s a transcendently terrible excuse for a journalist. He gets almost nothing he reports on right; in fact it isn’t always clear that he doesn’t just make things up. (For example, his claim last February that Obama was set to “cleanse” the military of all Christians in the US military so that Obama could something something Mulsim something, or that New York public school curriculum now teaches girls how to lesbian role-play.)
You can read Starnes report on East Point Academy for Fox News here. No matter how carefully you read it, however, here’s what you won’t find: That part of what Samaritan’s Purse make the third world kids do in order to get their charity toys is sign a document pledging to renounce their current faith and declare themselves Christian.
This, of course, makes the case of East Point Academy’s victimhood a little trickier than advertised. Having kids from a public school gather toys and send them to third world countries for a quasi-religious holiday is one thing. Having those kids take part in a scheme to bribe boys and girls into renouncing their faith and convert to Christianity is another. Add to this the wrinkle that there are many existing charity toy drives that don’t ask poor children to convert out of their parents faith that East Point could partner with instead, and it makes their initial decision all that much more head-scratching. It is not without reason, I suspect, that Starnes, Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly and others “reporting” on this story under the rubric of the WOC found it convenient to leave out this detail.
Those who want another example of how the conservative media machine manufactures WOC stories should read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s story on the Georgia elementary school that Fox, Beck, and others went after for supposedly “confiscating” teacher’s Christmas cards in jackboot fashion. Journalist Jim Galloway tells the story better than I can, so you should read his telling here. I don’t think I’m giving away anything by letting you know now that the whole thing was made up and then blown up by the ratings machine, but the story about how that rat went through the snake is fascinating.