Is there a "war on Christmas" in the US, as Bill O'Reilly is claiming there is? Yes (setting aside the hyperbole of "war", which is only a metaphor here), there is a concerted campaign by the well-known culprits, the ACLU, principally, to curtail governmental sponsorship or acceptance of display of Christmas symbols and to prevent their display on public property. They conduct their campaign in the name of constitutional provision that the federal government shall not establish a state religion. But I think the fundamental issue is larger and not constitutional at all. What is at issue is whether American public culture shall be completely secular, as the ACLU and secularists desire, or shall have a significant ethically religious component. "Christmas" is just one of many symbols around which this struggle coalesces (Terri Schiavo's case was another).
The basic principles upon which ACLU and secular opposition to Christmas displays is based are the moral equivalence of all religions and the falsehood of all religions. Secular humanists see all the major religions--Judaism, Christianity, Mohammedanism, Hinduism, Buddhism mainly--as a group as an underlying historical source of conflict and division between peoples. They also see all religions as equally mythological and scientifically false. Religions are acceptable only in restricted situations as sources of ethnic identity (as legacy speech acts and rituals uniting Jews, for instance) and as personal therapy and sources of personal strength for victims (such as Christianity for African American slaves and Gospel music for Black women today). With these assumptions, the secularists desire to demote Christianity by elevating other religions. This elevation would make no sense if all religions were not equally false.
The social and political controversy occurs now, because President Bush mobilized, that is, politicized, evangelical Christians in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. They are using their voice and political leverage to push back against the secularization campaign, which has been going on since 1945. What many Christians want is not only to halt secularization, but also to bring religious morality back into American public culture. Their desire is based on the notion that not all religions are equivalent; some religions are true as religions (Judaism and Christianity), while other religions are false religions (some thinkers would put Mohammedanism in this category) or not religions at all (some thinkers would put Buddhism and Confucianism in this category).
The war on Christmas is therefore a profound struggle over the basic character of American public culture. It involves moral re-armament. Some Americans, many Evangelical Christian Americans, are pushing American public culture to re-acquire the values and ethical beliefs it needs to engage in a long struggle against evil in its contemporary form--Islamist terrorism and totalitarianism. This struggle cannot be engaged and won if Americans are unable to discriminate between good and evil, between freedom and totalitarianism, between religion and a sectarian warfare ideology falsely dressed in the symbols of religion, and between religious freedom and secular subservience to Islamic fascism.