Boca group crusades to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’

From Lois K. Solomon and sun-sentinel.com


Sophomore, Kristen Leja, of Pope John Paul II High School in Boca Raton , is offered a car magnet for sale during lunch. Students are selling the magnets as part of national campaign to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Christians are putting up billboards and selling magnets and trying to increase people’s awareness about the religious, vs. the commercial, nature of the Christmas season. (Sun-Sentinel/Carline Jean / December 6, 2007)

“Billboards and car magnets are urging Palm Beach County drivers to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” a renewed campaign spurred by an influx of what organizers call anti-Christian expressions in American society.

More than 30,000 “Keep Christ in Christmas” car magnets have been sold by the Pilot Program To Keep Christ In Christmas, a Boca Raton-based group formed in October that has recruited several denominations to join the campaign.

Local chapters of the Knights of Columbus and students at Pope John Paul II High School in Boca Raton also are selling magnets. Two bright red billboards, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, have been posted in Wellington and West Palm Beach.

Organizers say they are disgusted with society’s increasing nonsectarian nature, especially at a time of year they believe should focus on Jesus and his amazing birth story.

“The atheists are going to conquer,” said Kay Mansolill, a leader of the Boca Raton committee. “We are in constant battle with the secular world.”

Young Christians say they also are frustrated.

“I’m tired of seeing ‘X-mas’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ at stores,” said Jessica Aquino, 15, a Pope John Paul II sophomore.

Several trends are galvanizing Christians who believe the faith is under assault.

A new film starring Nicole Kidman, The Golden Compass, a children’s fantasy about a girl who rescues kidnapped children from horrific experiments in a land far away, opened last week. Christ Fellowship, a mega-church with campuses in Royal Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, e-mailed its congregation to urge a boycott of the movie, calling it “anti-church.”

At the same time, an abundance of books on atheism have hit the best-seller lists, climaxing recently with Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Salvation Army bell ringers were prohibited at some stores. Santa Claus and creches were banned from some malls.

The village of Wellington attracted national attention in 2005 when its council debated whether to include the Holy Family in its holiday display. Mike Romeo, a Wellington resident and former Knights of Columbus grand knight, said the incident inspired him to raise money for the billboards this year.

“The secular progressive left is taking Christmas traditions away from us,” said Romeo, who said too many schools have replaced Christmas trees with snowflakes and snowmen.

“We are building a movement,” Romeo said.

The Knights of Columbus, the national Catholic fraternal group based in New Haven, Conn., has been sponsoring Keep Christ in Christmas programs since the 1980s, spokesman Peter Sonski said. He said the organization always has encouraged chapters to develop their own initiatives.

Romeo said the response to the billboard campaign has been so positive — he raised $8,000 — that he wants to expand it next year to increase the participation of other faiths.

Mansolill said she also wants to expand next year.

The pilot program sells magnets, writes letters to the editor and works to get nativity scenes placed in malls.

“I didn’t expect the extremely positive reaction we are getting,” Mansolill said. “I’m hoping a few years from now our committee won’t be needed anymore because we were so successful.”

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