We talk a lot about the War on Christmas every year. Let’s face it, that rhetoric is often melodramatic and over-the-top — and yes, I’ve used it too — but there are squeaky wheels out there who would love to drain Christmas of all its fun and meaning or get rid of it altogether. Let’s call these people “Christmas killjoys.”
They’ve found a new way to try to ruin Christmas for everybody: by going after an organization that lays Christmas wreaths on the graves of veterans.
The non-profit Wreaths Across America takes one day a year — December 18 this year — to place wreaths on veterans’ graves. But the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has a problem with this generous act of tribute.
The group’s creed includes the following:
No member of the military may be compelled to endure unwanted religious proselytization, evangelization or persuasion of any sort in a military setting and/or by a military superior or civilian employee of the military.
The full exercise of religious freedom includes the right not to subscribe to any particular religion or religious philosophy. The so-called “unchurched” cede no Constitutional rights by want of their separation from organized faith.
Fox News reports the MRFF’s beef with Christmas wreath-laying:
“We’re not saying you can’t [place wreaths], but you cannot blanket it like that,” Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Michael ‘Mikey’ Weinstein told Fox News. “That’s like carpet-bombing.”
“That looks like it’s a Christian gang sign, that you’re creating territory that is a Christian territory,” he continued.
I bet Mikey’s loads of fun at Christmas parties.
Besides, it’s not like they’re laying nativity scenes or placing Bibles on the graves. A Christmas wreath is a fairly non-sectarian symbol of the holiday season and the joy it brings. The average person, Christian or not, likely doesn’t view a wreath as a form of proselytizing. Oh, but Mikey “Bah, Humbug” Weinstein does.
“The grave sites of Christians and non-Christians alike will be adorned with this hijacked-from-paganism symbol of Christianity — circular and made of evergreen to symbolize everlasting life through Jesus Christ — whether the families of the deceased veterans like it or not,” it continued.
Hooray, there’s the old “pagan symbolism” chestnut. Anybody who’s researched the history of our Christmas traditions (I highly recommend Paul Kerensa’s book Hark! The Biography of Christmas), knows the pagan origins of many ways we celebrate these days. Formerly pagan customs have made their way into the melting pot of Christmas tradition for centuries. And most people don’t care.
Also, as someone who has grown up in the church my entire life, has been a Christian since age seven (which means a long time), and has studied theology and church history for years, I haven’t heard a lot of discussion of the wreath as a symbol of eternal life in Jesus. It’s kind of cool to think of it, but it’s not a major selling point of the wreath as a Christmas decoration.
But that’s not all. Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s research director, Chris “the Grinch” Rodda, goes low, leveling accusations that Wreaths Across America and its director, Karen Worcester, aren’t exactly on the up-and-up.
“According to their latest available tax return, the Worcester’s non-profit Wreaths Across America took in nearly $25 million in donations in 2019 and then paid nearly $17 million of that to their for-profit wreath company to produce the wreaths,” Rodda wrote.
Worcester defended her nonprofit’s finances.
“The wreaths have to be made,” she told Fox News. “That’s that and for many long-standing years there is [a request for proposal] process.”
So what? It’s not like there are loads of companies out there that can make bulk Christmas wreaths. I’d guess that the Worcester family started Wreaths Across America because they had the means to create the product.
For their part, Worcester says that Wreaths Across America doesn’t place wreaths on graves with a Star of David, and they respect other faiths.
Wreaths Across America has “never been asked not to” place wreaths for veterans of other non-Christian faiths, such as Islam. She then added that they have never “placed those wreaths unless asked by the families to do so.”
“We live in a free country where there is freedom of religion, and we respect that,” Worcester told Fox News.
That doesn’t matter to Mikey “Wet Blanket” Weinstein, that would-be destroyer of Christmas cheer. He actually wants the Biden administration to intervene. No joke.
“We’d love President Biden, and Secretary [Denis] McDonough, the head of the [Department of Veterans Affairs], to come out and simply say again, ‘Fine if you want your wreaths, but then you make sure that you’ve either requested one from Wreaths Across America or that … Wreaths Across America has expressed or explicit approval to do it’,” he said.
Sure, Mikey. Let’s get the feds involved. Regardless of how you feel about the role of government in our lives, getting the Biden administration involved in some petty Christmas killjoy crusade is ridiculous.
Worcester says that Wreaths Across America is about treating our deceased veterans with dignity.
“We’re so blessed to live in this country because of the men and women that we’re trying to honor,” she stated. “We want to respectfully honor every one of them.”
“Peace on earth, goodwill to men” is a concept that even non-believers can understand and get behind. And it sounds like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation could stand to put it into practice this holiday season, too.
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