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Christmas Decor Honors Veterans, Active-Duty Military and First Responders with Patriotic Pines

DALLASNov. 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Christmas Decor, a leading holiday lighting and decorating franchise, has teamed up with Birds Eye View Project to launch Patriotic Pines in an effort to show support and bring awareness to military and first responder communities across the United States. At a time when our nation seems so much at odds, the partnership aims to play a role in spreading efforts of unity, hope, and appreciation for the country and those who spend their days protecting our way of life.

Christmas Decor and its network of 250+ operators will be donating the red, white, and blue Christmas trees and garland flags to military families, VA hospitals, VFW lodges, military recruiting stations, local police stations, and fire departments across the country this holiday season. Additionally, retail orders can be made at www.patrioticpine.com if individuals are interested in aiding in the awareness effort or donating to local organizations.

“We have taken the humble symbol of the American flag and created a line of products that allow each and every American to show their support and thanks for military families, veterans, and first responders,” stated Rayan Parrott, founder of Birds Eye View Project. “We believe with the help of Christmas Decor, we can spread a message of unity, pride, and support for our brave men and women at a time when our country needs it the most.”

The partnership formed when Dallas-based philanthropist and former Navy SEAL, Ryan Parrott decided to expand Patriotic Pine to a national level by connecting with Christmas Decor’s parent company, The Decor Group. The idea began as a way to honor U.S. military members who cannot be home for the holidays. At a time of year when many spend their days with family and loved ones, others do not have that luxury. They are the brave men and women of our armed forces and first responders protecting our country and daily way of life.

“When we were approached by the Birds Eye View Project with an opportunity to partner with an amazing cause like Patriotic Pines, it was another wonderful opportunity to support a group of people who we admire and aim to appreciate,” stated Brandon Stephens, president of Christmas Decor. “This program complements our existing Decorated Family Program which is in its 15th year of transforming the homes of servicemen and women each holiday season. These efforts are the least we can do for those who risk their lives of us daily.”

Now a seasonal tradition, hundreds of franchisees nationwide participate in the Decorated Family Program by donating products, resources, and time to decorate the homes of local military families with lights, garland, ornaments, and other trimmings. Following the decorating process, each decked out home is revealed during a surprise ceremony.

Operating in more than 300 markets and 49 states, Christmas Decor, Inc. is the largest professional holiday and event decorating franchise. The company offers complete decorating service programs including unique display design, installation, maintenance, and removal of holiday lighting and decorations – alleviating decorating stress while delivering the look customers want within a reasonable budget.

For more information on Christmas Decor and to find a local operator, please visit http://www.christmasdecor.net/

About Christmas Decor
Since its inception in 1986, Christmas Decor has risen to become the premier holiday lighting and decorating company in North America. The Texas-based company was founded by Blake Smith as an off-season supplement to his landscape business and as a method to provide year-round work for employees. Christmas Decor quickly emerged as a viable business opportunity and today, operates in more than 300 markets in 49 states and Canada. Christmas Decor is highly revered in its field and has received consistent recognition for its efforts, including its popular Decorated Family Programwhich has been featured on The TODAY Show, TIME.comCNN and FOX, among others. For more information, visit www.christmasdecor.net.

About Birds Eye View Project
Birds Eye View Project generates awareness and raises funds for charities supporting veterans and first responders. Former US Navy SEAL Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, and other Veterans offer an up close and personal look at the extreme needs of veterans and first responders, as well as the people and organizations working to help them realize nothing is impossible, even the most extreme challenges. 2017 Beneficiary organizations include: Sons of the Flag, Carry the Load, 22Kill, Adaptive Training Foundation, America’s Mighty Warriors, Base Camp 40, Rebuilding Warriors, and Rosecrance Florian.  Visit #Birdseyeviewproject and www.birdseyeviewproject.org for more information.

SOURCE Christmas Decor

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Thomas More Society Wins Dismissal in Atheist-Satanist Lawsuit Against Indiana Nativity

50 Year Old Franklin County Courthouse Crèche Prevails Against ACLU Challenge

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ind., Dec. 18, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — The Thomas More Society and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a stipulation to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a nativity scene on the Franklin County, Indiana courthouse lawn. The suit, brought by the ACLU on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Satanic Temple, was the second such challenge filed in the past year by the atheist organization, FFRF, over the manger that’s been displayed annually for 50 years. With the filing of this stipulation, all legal actions that had been pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against Franklin County are concluded, without attorneys’ fees or any other costs to the county’s taxpayers.

“Religious speech is no less valuable and protected than non-religious speech under the First Amendment. These Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuits against Franklin County and the local nativity scene were in retaliation against private citizens’ exercise of their freedom of religious speech in a public forum,” said Thomas More Society Associate Counsel Jocelyn Floyd. “We are proud to have resolved these legal cases without cost to the people of Franklin County.”

In December 2014, the ACLU of Indiana and FFRF of Wisconsin sued Franklin County, trying to force the removal of the privately-funded crèche from the courthouse, where it has adorned the lawn each Christmas season for the past half century. Thomas More Society attorneys were successful in securing the right of Franklin County citizens to keep their nativity scene on the lawn through Christmas. The nonprofit public interest lawyers then assisted the county in formally documenting its courthouse lawn access policy, a process which resulted in the lawsuit’s dismissal.

The ACLU of Indiana filed a new lawsuit against Franklin County on behalf of FFRF in March 2015, this one including the Massachusetts based Satanic Temple. The groups challenged the county ordinance requiring displays be sponsored by citizens of Franklin County. As part of a settlement, the county agreed to accept the designation of a local contact in lieu of requiring that sponsorship be wholly by citizens of Franklin County.

As a result of this most recent court action, this year’s Christmas nativity scene on the Franklin County courthouse lawn is joined by other displays from local residents and churches, and the FFRF of Wisconsin.

View the Settlement Agreement here.

About the Thomas More Society
The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the organization fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. Visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.

Feelings of Grief and Loss can be Heightened During the Holidays

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Many people are greatly affected by ongoing media coverage of national and international tragedies that have played out in recent weeks, just ahead of the holidays. And for those individuals who are grieving the death of a loved one, the holiday season can also be a particularly painful time.

Hospice professionals, who are experts in helping people deal with feelings of loss and grief, recognize how difficult the holidays can be for some and offer helpful suggestions as the holiday season moves forward.

“Our spirits can be adversely affected by negative coverage from current events that seems to be coming at us from all angles, whether it’s via television, newspapers, radio, or the Internet. Our emotional reactions can be heightened during this time of year,” says J. Donald Schumacher, a licensed psychologist and president/CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Situations that stress danger and uncertainty in the world around us are particularly discordant during the holidays when we traditionally think of a period of ‘peace on Earth.'”

Added Schumacher, “And for those mourning a loved one – whether a recent death or one long ago – the holiday season which is customarily marked by celebrations and family gatherings can be full of painful reminders that heighten  the sense of loss.”

Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support someone struggling during the holidays.

Here are some tips from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:

  1. Be understanding and supportive if someone wants to do things differently this holiday season.  Some people find strength in long established traditions while others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to do things differently.
  2. Offer to help with decorating or holiday cooking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving or overwhelmed by events going on in the world around us. Lending a hand can be a great way to let someone know you’re thinking about them and their wellbeing.
  3. Invite someone to join you or your family during the holidays.  If someone you know seems down or depressed, consider inviting them to join you for a holiday concert, religious service or a holiday meal where they are a guest. You might even offer to accompany them on a holiday shopping trip where a friend and extra set of hands can be helpful.
  4. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen, staffing a coat drive, or working with children, may lift your spirits and help everyone feel better about the holidays.
  5. Never tell someone that he or she should get ‘over it.’  It can be important to acknowledge that a friend or loved one is struggling. Don’t discount their emotions, but give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
  6. Be willing to listen.  Don’t avoid someone because you don’t know what to say. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping someone coping with grief or overwhelming feelings of loss. Letting them share their feelings can help healing.
  7. Don’t be afraid to remember someone who has died.  When someone is grieving, it is okay to let them know that you are thinking of the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.
  8. Follow up after the holidays to check in.  Given the activity of the season, some people may make it through the holidays without any issues but they might find the post-holiday period to be more difficult. So circling back after the holidays to see how he or she is doing can help.

“Hospice and palliative care professionals have always recognized the need to provide emotional and spiritual support to those who are dealing with loss,” added Schumacher. “Hospices often offer support to community members struggling with grief or loss so it might be useful to check with your community hospice to see if support is available.”

To learn more about grief or coping with loss, visit NHPCO’s CaringInfo website, www.caringinfo.org.

Non-Traditional Christmas Decorations Now Preferred by More than Half of Consumers

ATLANTA, Dec. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — More than 2,000 people from across the U.S. participated in a nationwide survey to identify the latest Christmas decorating trends, including preferences on style, lights and color themes. Only 47% of consumers chose decorating styles considered traditional, which means the majority of consumers are now exploring new ways to decorate for the holidays.

“Outdoor Christmas decorations and lights are seeing a resurgence of themed color combinations like red and white candy cane styles and new decorating options like laser Christmas lights are very popular in red and green themes,” says Frank Skinner, Director of Marketing for Christmas Lights, Etc.  “Indoor Christmas decorations are using more LED Christmas lights with newer whites and bolder colors and a large percentage of consumers are doing theme-specific styles based on fashion and home decor trends.”

The “Consumer Views of Christmas Lights, Trees and Decorating Report” also identified the top Christmas colors and the top color may surprise many because it’s not actually red. 78% of consumers incorporate white in their Christmas decorating ideas with red coming in a close second at 77%. Green was selected by 69% of consumers followed by blue at 53%. Gold and silver came in at 35% and 28%, which reinforces their use as accent decorating colors only.

“We’re seeing a renaissance in Christmas decorating styles,” says Skinner. “More people are experimenting with different ways to express their holiday creativity. They have access to more Christmas decorating ideas than ever before and they’re incorporating them into newer design styles to make their holidays unique and memorable.”

Over 14% of consumers say they’ve decorated using a whimsical/fun style for Christmas. Just under 5% self-identified their style as American rustic while 7% chose styles like patriotic, coastal/beach or Southern chic. Notably, nearly 17% of consumers say they have their own style, which illustrates that decorating for the holidays can showcase people sharing their Christmas spirit as well as their individual creativity.

Christmas Lights, Etc is the most shopped online Christmas lights store in America and routinely engages in customer research nationwide. Highlight findings from the Christmas trends report are available for free at: http://www.christmaslightsetc.com/christmas-trends-report.htm

 

Christmas Lights, Etc was founded in 2000 and is the most shopped online Christmas lights store in America featuring thousands of quality lights, trees, greenery and decor. Christmas Lights, Etc is a three-time INC. 5000 company and an ENERGY STAR partner. www.ChristmasLightsEtc.com

SOURCE Christmas Lights, Etc

Christians Honoring their Pastors’ Relevancy this Christmas through Gratitude Award

MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 9, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month feeling burnout, irrelevancy… North Central Theological Seminary has aligned with Favorfloat Corporation to encourage Christians to honor, appreciate, and show gratitude to their pastors this Christmas through the Gratitude Award, instead of just sending Christmas greeting cards with pre-written messages that don’t come from the heart.
“Why do you think pastors often say, ‘Somebody say amen!’ when they preach?” asked Dr. Jay. “They want to feel heard and appreciated,” he answered. According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010), “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen.” Dr. Jay continues, “Listed below is what your pastor may be feeling that you may not know.”
·         75% of pastors report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.

·         45% say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.

·         57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.

·         70% don’t have any close friends.

·         80% say they have insufficient time with their spouse.

·         90% work more than 50 hours a week.

·         94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.

·         56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.

·         1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
In response, North Central Theological Seminary has, on behalf of its students and all Christians in general, paid Favorfloat Corporation to grant free access for Christians to issue, as seen on television, their registered trademark Gratitude Award® (five star gold status, pdf), emailed for them to print out, frame, and give to their pastors, pastors’ wives, or pastoral staff members this Christmas for all they meant for them or their family in 2015. To do so, North Central Seminary has provided this special link: www.favorfloat.com/give-gratitude-award/?pa=FREEPASTOR
“Christmas is the most joyful time, but perhaps also the most lonely and depressing time for so many pastors and Christians,” said Dr. Jay, who is also encouraging people to remember to honor those few special people who’ve made a huge difference in your life – wife, husband, brother, sister, other family members, coworkers or your boss. “They may be feeling unappreciated and depressed this year. Your Gratitude Award may be all it takes to lift their spirit this season,” concluded Dr. Jay.
Only honoring your pastor is free. Charges apply for those honoring others at: www.favorfloat.com/give-gratitude-award

The Word Became Flesh: An Advent Meditation on John 1

By A Servant In Training

When it comes to the doctrine of the Incarnation, few texts in Holy Scripture compare to the inspired words of St. John.  Since John was the longest living of the Apostles, he lived to see the degenerate forces of the Gnostics trying to undermine fundamental doctrines of Jesus, as well as apostates and heretics denying either His deity or His humanity.  John witnessed what was being done to the Apostolic witness of his sainted brothers, and wrote his Gospel and his Epistles to reinforce the truth of Jesus.  At the very beginning of this effort, John pens the first chapter of his Gospel.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God. The same was in
the beginning with God. All things were made by
him; and without him was not any thing made that was
made. In him was life; and the life was the light of
men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the
darkness comprehended it not.
 
There was a man sent from God, whose name was
John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of
the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 
 
That was the true Light, which lighteth every
man that cometh into the world. He was in the
world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew
him not. He came unto his own, and his own
received him not. But as many as received him, to
them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to
them that believe on his name: Which were born, not
of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,
but of God.
 
And the Word was made flesh, and
dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of
the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
 
St. John makes several things clear.  First, that Jesus is the same God through whom the universe was made—He is not a creature, but the Creator, one with the Father and the Spirit.  Secondly, that Jesus is fully human, born of the Virgin Mary, full of grace and truth, and like us in every way except for sin.  These two truths are the central confessions of the doctrine of the Incarnation, which John sums up perfectly as he says, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”  In this very simple confession, the infinite mystery of Immanuel – God With Us—is brought forth in the person of Jesus Christ.
We might ask today, what the significance of such a confession is.  Plenty of nuts today claim to be gods, and plenty of other nuts claim there is no god at all.  The world keeps turning, day by day, century by century, while people either ignore or deny the Incarnation of Jesus.  Even to Christians, what difference does it make whether John’s confession is true, or that we share it?  Why does it matter that we affirm both the humanity and the deity of Christ, united in the one person of Jesus, who is Himself perfectly united to the other persons of the Holy Trinity?
The implications couldn’t be more serious, because they lay at the foundation of what the Church calls the Doctrine of Justification:  that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, and specifically through Jesus’ Vicarious Atonement for the sins of the whole world.  If Jesus was not fully human, He couldn’t suffer and die for human beings.  If Jesus was not fully God, He could not pay an eternal debt on behalf of all mankind.  Only if Jesus was fully human, receiving His full human nature from His mother Mary, and fully divine, receiving His full divine nature from God the Father, could Jesus accomplish the salvation of the world upon the Cross.  Without His humanity, Jesus’ death is nothing but an irrelevant divine show; without His deity, Jesus’ death is just another human tragedy.  But with full humanity and deity united in His one person, Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplish what no one else could do:  salvation by grace to all who repent and believe.
We meditate upon the doctrine of the Incarnation this time of year, because it shows to us the loving heart of our saving God.  There in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our God comes down from eternity and bursts into time, so that He may seek and save the lost.  There, in the tabernacle of Mary’s body, the Lord of Glory comes to dwell among His people, so that He might take their sins upon Himself, and be the ransom for their redemption.  There, in the humble handmaiden of the Lord who becomes the Second Eve by her assent to the divine will, the Lord our God becomes for us the Second Adam—and where death came through our first parents, life and forgiveness come to us through Jesus Christ.  Here the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us, preaching to us the Gospel of salvation, of God and man reconciled, giving unto all who will believe in Him the power to become the children of God.  Here, God comes to save us all, so that we might be born not merely of flesh and blood, but by His Holy Spirit unto life everlasting.
Come, see, hear, and receive the Word made Flesh—He comes to save you.  Amen.

Attorneys Defend the Nativity: Expression of Faith on Public Property Constitutional

Thomas More Society Legal Experts Uphold Private Citizens’ Right to Celebrate Christmas in the Public Square

CHICAGO, Nov. 26, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — Never fear, the attorneys are here to separate fact from fiction surrounding private citizens’ right to freely express religious faith in the public square. Nativity scenes will appear in nine State Capitols this Christmas – five of them due to the work of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm.

As experts on public nativity displays, Thomas More Society attorneys have settled legal challenges for private groups sponsoring Christmas manger scenes for thirty years, since helping defend the original erection of a life size crèche on Chicago’s Daley Plaza.

Christmas 2014 marks the eighth year that statues of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus have resided in a small stable at the Illinois State Capitol. Thomas More Society has also helped secure permits for nativity scenes to be displayed this year in the State Capitols of Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Texas, and on the Governor’s Mansion lawn in Oklahoma.

“These nativity displays represent classic free speech and the free exercise of faith by private citizens in the public square,” explained Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society. “However,” he added, “The issue has not been without controversy.”

Private citizens who wish to display a nativity scene in traditional or designated public forums often run into roadblocks that violate their free speech rights, including:

  1. Take it all down
    Either unwilling or unable to discern what is legally permissible, some authorities will allow no displays that allude to Christmas. This was the case last year when the U.S. Military’s Guantanamo Bay commander ordered the removal of all Christmas nativities, and nativity scenes were also removed from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina.
  2. Secular only
    When only allowing secular holiday scenes, some authorities refuse to permit any display deemed “religious,” deferring to generic winter symbolism such as snowflakes and mittens.

“These are issues that our Thomas More Society experts can address,” offered Brejcha, who has helped file permit requests and brought about amicable resolutions to disputes with municipal and state officials over Christian nativity scenes for three decades.

Brejcha added that resolution is often simply a case of education, “Nativity displays represent a constitutionally protected expression by private citizens in traditional or designated public forums, where the sole role of the government must be that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all citizens to have their ‘say.’ Such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of our nation are not merely tolerable but fully deserving of robust legal protection.” In other words – there’s no need for a fight before Christmas.

Individuals or private citizen groups who are interested in sponsoring a public nativity scene – or those encountering roadblocks in doing so – may contact the Thomas More Society at 312.782.1680 or info@thomasmoresociety.org.

About the Thomas More Society
The Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society defends and fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
www.thomasmoresociety.org

Black Friday Becomes Bless Friday – From the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Stream Waters

Black Friday Becomes Bless Friday® – Blessings Stretch from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Stream Waters to the Rhineland in 5th Year

HOUSTON, Nov. 17, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — Since 2010, Houston area churches have provided an alternative to frenzied Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Continuing this tradition, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church (MDPC), Beacon of Light Christian Center, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, St. Francis Episcopal Church, West University Baptist Church, Crosspoint Church and The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church, are each scheduling community service projects on Friday, November 28. Also, this year the Christian community in Seattle can join parishioners from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church who will be helping the homeless at the St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle food bank. These churches ask families and individuals to celebrate Bless Friday® as an alternative to Black Friday.

A family-friendly activity at MDPC will connect its congregation to wounded warriors in Germany. Volunteers will make no-sew fleece pillows for wounded servicemen and woman being treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The pillows will be gathered on the church on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and shipped to the Chaplain’s Closet at the base.

West University Baptist Church and Crosspoint Church, both located in Houston, will join Bless Friday this year. They will unite in blessing a local medical clinic ministry, Casa el Buen Samaritano, by supporting its annual Christmas tradition of delivering cookies to patients and their families.

Again this year Bless Friday will operate a post in the plaza at City Centre, a mixed-use development in west Houston. Last year some people drove 60 miles to help assemble bags designed to bless the homeless. The post provides a respite from shopping for City Centre patrons and a way to honor Christ with service. Passersby are invited to take one of the bags to keep in their cars and hand out to the homeless. Pastor Brandon Gaide states, “We want to provide a positive counterpoint to a day devoted to over-hyped consumerism.”

Beacon of Light Christian Center plans to walk through the community, passing out much needed produce. Unfortunately fresh fruits and vegetables are not always part of the daily meals for many families in their part of town. Pastor Anthony Gasery states, “We are using the day to address the physical and spiritual needs of our community.”

Some of the other activities planned around the city include: serving lunch at Star of Hope homeless shelter; prepping food, cleaning the facility and welcoming clients at The Beacon, a homeless shelter established by Christ Church Cathedral; preparing Vita Living’s Spring Branch home for the intellectually challenged for Christmas; preparing shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts to be distributed by the International Seafarer’s Mission; bagging rice and beans for food pantries; improving the physical condition surrounding churches; and picking up trash at Memorial Park.

Chuck Fox, founder of Bless Friday, adds, “The great thing about Bless Friday is that you don’t need to participate in these planned activities. Any individual, family or group can identify a need and begin their Christmas season with service.” The improved website, BlessFriday.org, provides specific help connecting Houston area people with service opportunities and gives concrete examples for people in other areas to imitate or modify.

Bless Friday® was founded in 2010 in Houston to change the way Americans celebrate Christmas.

ADF: VA hospital should lift ban on Christmas carolers

Attorney sound bites:  Jeremy Tedesco  |  Matt Sharp

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to a federally run veterans’ hospital in Georgia that recently banned Christmas carolers from singing religious songs in its public patient areas to protect veterans “from unwelcomed religious material.” Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center told high school students from Augusta’s Alleluia Community School last week that they must choose different music if they want to perform in the public areas in light of the new policy.

“Our nation’s veterans have time and again faced and defeated dangerous threats to the liberties we cherish as American citizens–children singing Christmas carols is not among them,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “By banning these Christmas carols, the VA is trampling the very religious freedoms our veterans have sacrificed so much to defend. Contrary to what hospital officials are claiming, they are disrespecting–not respecting–constitutionally protected religious freedoms.”

According to news reports, the students sang religious carols at the hospital in 2011 and 2012 with no resistance from officials. This year, however, when the students arrived to sing at the hospital, officials provided them with a pre-approved list of 12 non-religious Christmas songs that the hospital’s Pastoral Service had reportedly “deemed appropriate for celebration within the hearing range of all veterans” and said the students could not sing any other songs except in the hospital’s chapel.

The Alliance Defending Freedom letter explains that “every federal court to examine the issue has determined that permitting religious Christmas carols to be sung at public facilities like the Medical Center fully complies with the First Amendment…. The Medical Center’s policy appears to be nothing more than political correctness run amok, and we thus urge you to immediately rescind the new policy instituted by the Medical Center’s administration.”

“The Constitution clearly prohibits the VA from targeting religious Christmas carols for exclusion from a public facility,” added Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We hope our letter will help clear up the misinformation upon which the VA is acting and that it will lift its unnecessary and unconstitutional ban.”

Alliance Defending Freedom has encountered numerous other instances of actual or attempted Christmas censorship this season in Kalispell, Mt., West Columbia, S.C., Rock Hill, S.C., Bordentown, N.J., and Wausau, Wis. Alliance Defending Freedom issued a letter in November to more than 13,000 public school districts nationwide to explain the constitutionality of religious Christmas carols and offer free assistance to schools that need help.

  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Depression and the Holidays; the Top Three Cues We Miss

Founder of nation’s leading depression clinic explains why depression spikes during the holidays

SEATTLE, Dec. 10, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The World Health Organization says Depression will be the number one disease in the World by 2020. Depression and the holidays often go hand-in-hand. Cold, dark months give way to eating binges and a nagging sense that our relationships or finances are not all that we’d like them to be.

The winter holidays are a grim reminder of what is, or what could have been, or of our disconnection from family. While holiday advertisements show happy families eating around ornately decorated tables the truth for millions of people is just the opposite; a lonely stressful time when the darkness of depression envelopes them like a blanket.

Dr. Gregg Jantz is a therapist who specializes in both depressive and eating disorders — twin culprits that are often closely linked. He is the author of Turning Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression (www.aplaceofhope.com). He says depression boils down to a lack of hope. The triggers can be anything from broken relationships to

financial struggles, lack of work, shorter days, or lack of exercise.

“Depression interferes with the ability to make decisions, concentrate, focus, or remember things,” explains Jantz. Further, it shows up as sadness or anxiety and often promotes feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness. For Christians, depression can feel like a weakness or lack of trust in God. Women also suffer from depression at higher rates than do men but for both sexes depression is on the rise.

Like any other illness, depression unhinges families, steals joy, and otherwise keeps us from enjoying the positive aspects of life. “Purpose gives you the drive to keep going,” explains Jantz. “You need to create a purpose, plan, and mission for your life.” The holidays are simply a catalyst for what’s beneath the surface, a lingering sense that things are not as we’d like them to be.

To break the patterns of depression and live a life of hope, Jantz suggests we remember this simple truth: “A lack of purpose causes a lack of passion. Passion is what energizes your spirit, and purpose gives you personal meaning.”