December 23, 2006
The spoils of war
The “War on Christmas” never has been so profitable.
For the fourth consecutive year, conservative Christian groups have spent much of December mobilizing against what they see as a liberal plot to censor Christmas.
But it’s more than a cause this year. It’s a heck of a fundraiser.
The American Family Association, a conservative activist group, has rung up more than $550,000 in sales of buttons and magnets stamped with the slogan “Merry CHRISTmas: It’s Worth Saying.”
Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit law firm affiliated with the religious right, has taken in more than $300,000 with its “Help Save Christmas Action Packs.”
The kits include two buttons, two bumper stickers and “The Memo that Saved Christmas,” a guide to defending overt religious expression, such as a Nativity scene in a public-school classroom.
The group also offers the buttons separately. Costing 40 cents to make, they’re sold 10 for $10 and at bulk rates, said Mat Staver, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel.
… With minimal advertising on Christian radio stations, Liberty Counsel rang up more than 12,000 orders for its memo, also available online for free. The minimum donation to get a packet was $25; many supporters kicked in more.
“It’s just a fundraising scam,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “And it’s a scam in the worst sense — it’s fighting something that doesn’t even exist.”
… Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association said the revenue from “War on Christmas” merchandise supplemented the ministry’s $13 million annual budget.
The association got an early start this year, raising the flag in the “Christmas wars” in August by criticizing “holiday” catalogs.
All 500,000 buttons and 125,000 magnets sold out. “It was very successful for us,” Wildmon said.
Liberty Counsel, too, rated the sale a success. “It did help with donations, but more than anything else, it helped with exposure,” spokeswoman Robin Bryant said. She said the group has been able to add many new names to its mailing list for future fund drives.
Next, the war on Easter:
Scouts for the American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., have an eye out for stores that promote “spring baskets” or “spring bonnets” instead of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. The group has a stash of Easter buttons, featuring three gold crosses and the words “He Lives.”
They’ll go on sale just after New Year’s.
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