When Christmas Was Banned

Outlawing the celebration of Christmas sounds a little extreme, but it happened. The ban existed as law for only 22 years, but disapproval of the Christmas celebration took many more years to change. In fact, it wasn't until the mid-1800s that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region. The Puritans who immigrated to Massachusetts to build a new life had several reason for disliking Christmas. First of all, it reminded them of the Church of England and the old-world customs, which they were trying to escape. Second, they didn't consider the holiday a truly religious day. December 25th wasn't selected as the birth date of Christ until several centuries after his death. Third, the holiday celebration usually included drinking, feasting, and playing games - all things the Puritans frowned upon. One such tradition, "wassailing", occasionally turned violent. The custom entailed people of a lower economic class visiting wealthier community members and begging, or demanding, food and drink in return for toasts to their hosts' health. If a host refused, there was the threat of retribution. Although rare, there were cases of wassailing in early New England. Fourth, the British had been applying pressure on the Puritans to conform to English customs. The ban was probably as much a political choice as it was a religious one for many. "For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county." From the records of the General Court, Massachusetts Bay Colony May 11, 1659 Records indicate the first Christmas the Puritans celebrated in the new world passed uneventfully. Some of the new settlers celebrated Christmas while others did not. But the events of the second Christmas were documented by the group's governor, William Bradford. Sickness had wiped out many of their group, and for the first time they were facing hostility by one of the Native American tribes in the area. Bradford recorded that on the morning of the 25th, he had called everyone out to work, but some men from the newly arrived ship "Fortune" told him it was against their conscience to work on Christmas. He responded he would spare them "until they were better informed." But when he returned at noon, he found them playing games in the street. His response, as noted in his writings, was: "If they made the keeping of it matter of devotion, let them kepe their houses, but there should be no gameing or revelling in the streets." That second Christmas was the first time the celebration was forbidden in Massachusetts, but the ban didn't make it into the law books until several years later. As the settlement grew and more English settled in the area, tensions grew between the Puritans and British. The more pressure the English king exerted on the colonists, the more they resisted. In 1659, the ban became official. The General Court banned the celebration of Christmas and other such holidays at the same time it banned gambling and other lawless behavior, grouping all such behaviors together. The court placed a fine of five shillings on anyone caught feasting or celebrating the holiday in another manner. "The generality of Christmas-keepers observe that festival after such a manner as is highly dishonourable to the name of Christ. How few are there comparatively that spend those holidays (as they are called) after an holy manner. But they are consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in mad Mirth ..." - Reverend Increase Mather, 1687 The ban was revoked in 1681 by an English-appointed governor, Sir Edmund Andros, who also revoked a Puritan ban against festivities on Saturday night. But even after the ban was lifted, the majority of colonists still abstained from celebrations. Samuel Sewell, whose diary of life in Massachusetts Bay Colony was later published, made a habit of watching the holiday—specifically how it was observed—each year. "Carts came to town and Shops open as is usual. Some, somehow, observe the day; but are vexed, I believe, that the Body of the People profane it, and, blessed be God! no Authority yet to compell them to keep it," Sewell wrote in 1685.

Laws suppressing the celebration of Christmas were repealed in 1681,[4] but staunch Puritans continued to regard the day as an abomination.[6] Eighteenth century New Englanders viewed Christmas as the representation of royal officialdom, external interference in local affairs, dissolute behavior, and an impediment to their holy mission.
During Anglican Governor Sir Edmund Andros tenure (December 20, 1686 – April 18, 1689), for example, the royal government closed Boston shops on Christmas Day and drove the schoolmaster out of town for a forced holiday. Following Andros' overthrow, however, the Puritan view reasserted itself and shops remained open for business as usual on Christmas with goods such as hay and wood being brought into Boston as on any other work day.[7]
With such an onus placed upon Christmas, non-Puritans in colonial New England made no attempt to celebrate the day. Many spent the day quietly at home. In 1771, Anna Winslow, an American schoolgirl visiting Boston noted in her diary, "I kept Christmas at home this year, and did a good day's work."[6]
Although Christmas celebrations were legal after 1680, New England officials continued to frown upon gift giving and reveling. Evergreen decoration, associated with pagan custom, was expressly forbidden in Puritan meeting houses and discouraged in the New England home.[8] Merrymakers were prosecuted for disturbing the peace. The Puritan view was tenacious. As late as 1870, classes were scheduled in Boston public schools on Christmas Day and punishments were doled out to children who chose to stay home beneath the Christmas tree.[8][9] One commentator hinted that the Puritans viewed Santa Claus as the Anti-Christ.[10]
In the aftermath of the American Civil War, Christmas became the festival highpoint of the American calendar. The day became a Federal holiday in 1870 under President Ulysses S. Grant in an attempt to unite north and south. The Puritan hostility to Christmas was gradually relaxed. In the late nineteenth century, authors praised the holiday for its liberality, family togetherness, and joyful observance.[8] In 1887, for example, St. Nicholas Magazine published a story about a sickly Puritan boy of 1635 being restored to health when his mother brings him a bough of Christmas greenery.[8]
One commentator suggested the Puritans had actually done the day a service in reviling the gaming, dissipation, and sporting in its observation.[10] When the day's less pleasant associations were stripped away, Americans recreated the day according to their tastes and times. The doctrines that caused the Puritans to regard the day with disapprobation were modified and the day was rescued from its traditional excesses of behavior. Christmas was reshaped in late nineteenth century America with liberal Protestantism and spirituality, commercialism, artisanship, nostalgia, and hope becoming the day's distinguishing characteristics.[11]

A North Carolina Presbyterian Church, will kick you out, for just knowing someone who is Gay

A Christian school in North Carolina affiliated with a Presbyterian Church made headlines this week when it released a policy that says it seeks to refuse admission to students if the student or someone in the student's family supports equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Note that this not a school associated with some fringe church. It is affiliated with a Presbyterian church, Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church

The school's policy reads in part: This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, participating in, supporting, or affirming sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bisexual activity; promoting such practices; or being unable to support the moral principles of the school.

During the previous two years, Faith In America has been observing a disturbing trend in which the anti-gay religious forces are intensifying their efforts to give spiritual legitimacy to religion-based bigotry toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

We have seen in recent days the United Methodist Church stepping up its efforts to put on trial pastors in that denomination who bless same-sex weddings. 

We have also seen how America's anti-gay religious industry is exporting its religion-based bigotry to other areas around the globe – particularly Russia.

When James Dobson, former president of the anti-gay Focus on the Family, said three years ago that the culture war had been lost, many may have thought that the anti-gay religious industry was conceding defeat. Today that would appear a mistaken analysis. Instead, Dobson's words most likely were meant as a wake-up call for the anti-gay religious industry to intensify efforts to place its religious and moral stamp of rejection and condemnation on gay and lesbian people. It seems to be heeding that call.

When we see churches within these "moderate" Methodist and Presbyterian denominations promoting harm toward innocent people, it should serve as a wake-up call for those advancing a much different religious perspective on sexual orientation.

Faith In America is answering that call and we hope you will join us.

You can start by sharing our message about this new religious perspective and our call to end the immense harm caused by religion-based bigotry. Visit this page and learn and how you can help by simply sharing the name and address of someone you would like us to send the materials.

We hope the pastor and congregants at Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church pause for a moment when they pray this morning to think about the immense emotional, psychological and spiritual harm caused to LGBT youth and their families.

Many of these families have lost a child due to this harm  – a horrible situation that is being committed in the name of Christ's love and understanding. Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church is making a mockery of that love and understanding.

Dems, will never take back the House, If our voters don't show up

The Democrats biggest problem heading into 2014 is the poor turnout performance of its core base groups: Single women, young voters and people of color. And in case you were wondering why Virginia was as close as it was, and why our hoped-for wave in the state legislature didn't materialize, it's not hard to see why.
Here is a voter turnout chart of the key demographic groups based on the exit polling from20092012 and 2013:
Look at that youth turnout—down to 13 percent of the electorate compared to 19 percent last year. Sure, that was an improvement from the 10 percent in 2009, and likely meant the difference between a McAuliffe victory and defeat, but it hurt us down ballot where we came up short by a hair in eight different House seats.
Single women were down significantly—a real problem for Democrats given that they voted for McAuliffe by a 67-25 margin. Liberals were down, while conservative turnout was significantly higher. They turn out in midterms. Latinos and Asians—two communities joined together by recent immigrant experiences—were down from eight to five percent of the electorate.
About the only good news was African American turnout, which is now proving itself hyper resilient. Barack Obama wasn't on the ballot. But years of community outreach and education, likely reinforced by GOP voter disenfranchisements efforts, is keeping black voters energized and active.  
Given the razor sharp losses in the legislature, an extra point from single women might've made the difference. Or young voters. Or liberals, in general. And that's what will determine our success (or lack thereof) in 2014. Demographics are destiny, and the fastest growing demographics are still ours. Any party that depends on 65-year-old voters and above is in trouble.
But I'm more interested in winning short-term than waiting for demographics to render the GOP irrelevant. I want the House back next year. So Democrats have to figure out how to motivate our core groups to turn out and vote. Because if they don't, we'll be left with lingering regret at yet more missed opportunities.
Update: I added 2009 numbers to contrast with the last gubernatorial bid. At the time, the Dems nominated a conservadem who tried to run the old "I'm not a liberal" playbook and lost big. So McAuliffe's explicitly liberal campaign certainly brought more people to the polls, and enough of them to win. Activating the base worked in this case. We just need more of that base to activate.



Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day memorializes those who have been killed as a result of anti-transgender violence. This year alone, 238 trans people have been murdered worldwide, with Brazil and  Mexico leading the list. Meanwhile, the trans community continues to experiencealarming rates of  discrimination, harassment, and violence. To call attention to these issues, PolicyMicis hosting a special series around trans visibility in the media. See these 16 beautiful portraits of humans who happen to be trans and meet this blogger who’s become a crusader for trans people.

7 GOP Governors targeted by the Democratic Governors Association

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker
Gov. Scott Walker may have survived a recall election already in his first term, which started after he gained national attention for supporting a bill that would have limited the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions in Wisconsin, but Democrats hope a general election will make him vulnerable. The battle over collective bargaining helped raise Walker's profile in the national Republican party, and now he's regularly mentioned on presidential shortlists.
Democrats, meanwhile, have criticized Walker citing him signing a controversial bill requiring women seeking an abortion to first get an ultrasound -- legislation that was so unpopular in Virginia that Democrats point to it as a major factor in the gubernatorial on Tuesday.
Democrats are excited about Democratic challenger and businesswoman Mary Burke who recently announced her candidacy for governor. A recent Marquette University Law School pollfound Burke trailing Walker by about 2 percentage points.
Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Corbett
Recent polling hasn't had any good news for Corbett. An October Franklin & Marshall pollfound that nearly half of all Pennsylvania Republicans want the first-term governor to step down so the GOP can run a different candidate in 2014.
Democrats are lining up against him, and it's easy to see why. In early October compared same-sex marriage to incest between siblings. He also was the first governor of a blue state to turn down the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Florida: Gov. Rick Scott
Both local and national Democrats have their knives out to unseat Scott, a longtime target on the left who's gotten some of the blame for Florida's struggling economy over the years. Florida's economy has been on the upswing recently but Democrats hope that its relatively weak growth will make Scott vulnerable. Make no mistake, Scott is a conservative governor that's won the ire of Democrats on issues like abortion.
He's also fielded a fair amount of criticism for a move to purge Florida voter rolls. Recently former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), who has rebranded himself after holding the mansion as a Republican, jumped into the race to unseat Scott. Most Democrats are optimistic that Crist has enough public stature to win the governor's mansion. Scott seems worried too. He's already begun airing aggressive ads attacking Crist from when he was a Republican.
Ohio: Gov. John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John Kasich got blowback in 2011 for trying to restrict bargaining rights of unionized workers in the state. His time as governor has also included signing a restrictive new abortion law, which Democrats were quick to criticize.
Polling has shown Kasich to be vulnerable, and Democrats feel that Kasich, after presenting a "sober" view of the state's economy on a recent Meet the Press appearance, is beatable. Kasich's Democratic challenger is Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan has struggled thanks to the economic woes in Detroit and politicians around the state --including Snyder -- have received the brunt of the blame since Detroit filed for bankruptcy. Snyder has also fielded criticism from Democrats over the years for signing right-to-work legislation into law.
Democrats have released polling showing that Snyder is vulnerable in a matchup against former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI), who's already running for governor. But other polls suggest that Snyder may be relatively safe. An EPIC-MRA poll showed Snyder up 8 percentage points over Schauer, 44 percent to 36 percent.
Snyder seems to be gearing up for a tough re-election fight. He released his first campaign ad 13 months before election day.
Maine: Gov. Paul LePage
The Maine gubernatorial election got some national buzz this week both because Maine Gov. Paul LePage set off his re-election campaign and because Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME), a top tier candidate in the gubernatorial race came out as gay.
Still, the 2014 gubernatorial race in Maine will likely be focused on eyebrow raising statements LePage has made over the years, including saying that a Democratic member of the Maine senate "claims to be for the people, but he's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline," and a report that said LePage accused President Barack Obama of hating white people (LePage denies ever saying that). A post at FiveThirtyEight.com in April found LePage with one of the highest disapproval averages in the country.
South Carolina: Gov. Nikki Haley
The State newspaper of South Carolina contacted the Democratic Governor's Association to find out where South Carolina's gubernatorial race landed on Democrats' list. Spokesman Danny Kanner said unseating South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is a "top priority" in 2014.
"Nikki Haley is so vulnerable and we have a great candidate," Kanner told the South Carolina newspaper. "We're already involved, already working with the campaign."
Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen (SC) is running against Haley.
A Democratic poll released by the DGA showed Sheheen trailing Haley by only four percentage points but a poll released by a Republican pollster found Haley leading by 9 percentage points.

Source TalkingPointsMemo.comhttp://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/after-virginia-these-are-the-governors-dems-hope-to-unseat

Koch Brothers Are Trying to interfere With A Small Town Again

In 2011 the Billionaire Koch Brothers and their Astro turf Groups, spent millions to promote segeration candidates to the Wake County School Board, These candidates were endorsed by the group WakeCares, which has opposed the county’s busing and integration policy. WakeCares, in turn, has been the recipient of outspoken public -- and financial -- support from Americans For Prosperity, a political activist group funded in part by the Koch Brothers. Americans for Prosperity’s North Carolina state director Dallas Woodhouse told The Huffington Post that the group "did not spend a single dime” on the 2009 Wake County school board elections. In an earlier blog, Woodhouse said the AFP "is on record as supporting the parents of WakeCares through significant financial contributions as well as other support."
And now, the Koch Brothers, Astro Turf, phony group, Americans For Prosperity efforts to sway a normally sleepy city election in Iowa may have backfired, with the mayor-elect on Wednesday calling the election results a victory for locals over outside interests.

Coralville, Iowa voters elected veteran City Council member John Lundell as mayor and re-elected two incumbent councilors Tuesday, rejecting an aggressive campaign by Americans for Prosperity to blame the trio for the city's $280 million debt.

Residents said the group's mailings, phone calls, door-to-door canvassing and social media ads fueled a backlash as the upper middle-class, Democratic-leaning city of 20,000 residents rallied behind the incumbents. The outcome may strengthen the officials that AFP tried to oust, and the race has led to calls for state-level reforms to force the group to disclose its spending and donors.

"The money spent by the large outside group actually showed that's not what works in local politics. Voters want local candidates that know the issues and speak with honesty and integrity," Lundell said. "The overwhelming margin of victory was very impressive and important. It wasn't that they almost won. We all won by healthy margins, which was important to make a statement to groups like this."

Vice President Joe Biden called Lundell on Tuesday to applaud the city's voters for defeating AFP, which was founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and advocates for limited government and lower taxes.

"He said that he wanted to congratulate Coralville for having the courage to stand up and fight back against these outside interests," recalled Lundell, the deputy director of the Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of Iowa.

AFP's Iowa chapter jumped into the race to protest Coralville's debt, which is the highest per capita among communities in the state. The group criticized Lundell and incumbent council members Bill Hoeft and Tom Gill for using tax dollars to subsidize the Iowa River Landing development, which includes a city-owned Marriott Hotel, a Von Maur department store poached from neighboring Iowa City, and a brewery the city helped finance.

One AFP flier showed pictures of decaying schools and buildings and warned that Coralville could become Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy this summer. The group noted that Moody's has repeatedly downgraded Coralville's bond rating, citing its ownership of the hotel and other nonessential enterprises.

But one candidate who agreed with AFP's general position on those issues said voters assumed he was its pawn and punished him at the polls. The candidate, Chris Turner, said he decided to run for office for the first time because he was concerned about the debt. After Americans for Prosperity got involved, Turner said that his neighbors tuned out his message.

"Sometimes I would ring a doorbell going door to door and I'd say I'm concerned about the bond rating. And people would start screaming at me, 'you work for the Koch brothers!'" said Turner, a University of Iowa researcher who finished last out of eight candidates seeking three council seats. "I could never get any further than that. The Koch brothers just messed everything up."

Mark Lucas, AFP's state director, said the group's involvement helped fuel a record turnout for a Coralville municipal election, 2,820 voters, or about a quarter of those registered. That's more than twice the number of people who voted in the last mayor's race, in 2009.

Lucas rejected the idea that the group had overreached in the race, and pledged it would continue speaking out in local and state elections.

"This is a victory of turnout," he said. "I hope that we were able to help bring to light the problem with the debt and the downgrades here and that the current City Council takes a more serious approach to these issues in the future."

Lundell agreed that AFP's involvement boosted turnout, saying it helped residents understand the stakes. But he said he was furious about some misinformation peddled by the group, including a late flier that falsely suggested he had manipulated property tax assessments.

Lundell said voters made clear they want the city to stay on the same path. During the campaign, he defended the spending as investment that would eventually pay dividends. He said the city has a long-term plan to pay down the debt, which has supported a range of popular projects such as a new library and aquatics center.

Lundell won 65 percent of the vote, easily defeating three challengers in the race to succeed 18-year Mayor Jim Faussett. Gill and Hoeft gathered the most votes among the eight City Council candidates. The new city councilor elected, Laurie Goodrich, had also been critical of AFP.

Turner said the election became a circus.

"It only took 25 signatures to get on the ballot, and I'm thinking I might try to help the budget. Next thing you know the Koch brothers are in town. I'm in the New York Times. Al Jazeera was at my house yesterday," he said. "This is the most fun I've had in a long, long time but I'm never doing it again.
Sources ABC and Al Jazeera America