Nov. 30, 2005 — -- On Thursday, Boston will light its city Christmas tree, after an uproar over an attempt to rename it the "holiday tree." It's just one of many battles across the country over what some Christians see as attempts to sap Christmas of its religious meaning.
Christian conservatives have launched online petition drives and recruited a record 1,550 attorneys to pursue any attempts to substitute "Christmas" with "holiday," or any other inclusive or nonsectarian terms. It's all aimed at -- to use their phrase -- "putting the Christ back in Christmas." And in some places, it's working.
Target stores became the focus of a Christian conservative boycott, after banning Salvation Army kettles.
Christian conservatives say retailers should proudly play up Christmas even if some non-Christian customers are alienated.
"Tough luck," said Donald Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association. "This is an overwhelmingly Christian country."
Some retailers are reacting to the pressure.
After using the more inclusive "Happy Holidays" in its ads and in-store promotions last year, Macy's is now embracing "Merry Christmas." And, after hundreds of phone calls, Lowe's stopped selling "holiday trees" and switched to "Christmas trees."
Speaking of trees, Christian conservatives applauded the speaker of the house when he had the tree on Capitol Hill switched from a "holiday tree" to a "Christmas tree." And, after Christians threatened to sue, Boston changed its mind about changing the name of its Christmas tree.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell says he and his allies are taking back Christmas from "Grinches" such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
"The fact is," Falwell said, "we've gone on the offense now. We've put them on the defense. We're kicking their butts and they're unhappy."
Critics say putting together an armada of Christian attorneys is likely a publicity stunt. If they sued Boston over the name of its tree, they'd likely lose because governments can call their trees whatever they want.
"Jerry Falwell has found that this war on Christmas is a very good, healthy, fundraising mechanism," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "And that's just about all this is. This is a war without any generals."