Printed in the Boston Herald Saturday, December 16, 2006
PC on Earth: Merry Christmas from Bill Donohue, Catholic League
By Associated PressNEW YORK - As it is for millions of people, Christmas is Bill Donohue's busy season.
While others spend time wrapping and shopping, Donohue stays busy sniping - at the Kentucky school where Santa Claus was banned. And the assorted colleges where the politics of inclusion keep the word "Christmas" off campus. And the Seattle airport where all the Christmas trees were removed."It's political correctness run amok," says Donohue, president of the watchdog Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. "Every day I'm putting out a statement about the latest absurdity ... This time of year, you can just bank on it."In this time of "Peace On Earth," Donohue does battle with those who - in his words - are part of the "secular crusade scrubbing society free of religion."Donohue's sardonic style mingles comedy with Catholicism, and he rarely holds back. After a variety of colleges offered multi-cultural December celebrations - but failed to mention Christmas, even as one misspelled "Kwanza" - Donohue posed this question: "Why not just start the academic year a month earlier and cancel December?"It's a typical shot from one of the league's ubiquitous press releases, where Donohue serves as Santa to his membership of 350,000 and Scrooge to those who run afoul of him.An example: Inspired by a Zogby poll that showed 95 percent of Americans were not offended by hearing the phrase "Merry Christmas" while shopping, Donohue immediately set out to identify the 5 percent who took umbrage.Ladies and gentlemen, the "Why I Hate Christmas Contest."Ho, ho, ho."When you're dealing with the theater of the absurd, sarcasm is necessary," Donohue said. "How else do you deal with this? It is in the venue of the surreal."Another example: The annual "Breakfast With Santa" held in a suburban New York elementary school. An anonymous complaint led to its rechristening as the "Winter Wonderland Breakfast," where Santa now shares top billing with Frosty the Snowman."Just shut up and don't tell the kids why 'Breakfast with Santa' has been censored and they won't know the difference," Donohue needled. "Just as residents need to know who the child abusers are in their neighborhood, they need to know who among them would abuse the right of children to enjoy Santa."Such over-the-top rants bring out the Donohue detractors. A recent Donohue op-ed piece in the Daily News prompted a series of critical letters to the editor, including one from the Netherlands."Until William Donohue and the rest of the Christmas warriors can show me a case of gangs of secular humanists roving the streets and tearing down Christmas ornaments or nailing shut church doors, I don't want to hear any more about this imaginary war on Christmas," wrote Paul Richard of Bloomfield, N.J.Barry Hammer of Amstelveen, Netherlands, was more succinct: "William Donohue needs to get a grip."The Catholic League was founded in 1973, but it wasn't until Donohue took over two decades later that the organization took off. He has become a constant presence among the television pundits, bringing his blunt comments and booming voice to a national audience.The debate over the separation of Christmas and the holiday season is nothing new. Last year, pressure from conservative groups led Wal-Mart to abandon its use of "happy holidays" in favor of a return to the word "Christmas" in advertising and employee greetings. Battles over the placement of creches and menorahs in public places go back more than two decades.But Donohue, who took over as president of the Catholic League in 1993, focuses much of his "Christmas Watch" attention on the more absurd elements of the season. Each December, Dononhue hones in on a single issue - what he calls "the diluting and dumbing down of the cultural and religious significance of Christmas."To his critics, Donohue offers this bit of holiday - er, Christmas - cheer: "Take a deep breath, and a drink with it. Sit back and relax."