Published: Friday, December 14, 2001
EAGAN: Grinch getting downright nastyBY MARA H. GOTTFRIED Pioneer Press
There's a Grinch loose in Eagan, trying to wipe out Christmas for the cheerful Who- villians by slashing Christmas lights and snatching a baby Jesus from its manger. The homemade light display that Barbara Lehman and her husband prepared and hung outside their house was spirited away recently.
"It's just so frustrating because you think, "Gee, stealing Christmas decorations seems like someone is just trying to ruin the holiday spirit,' " she said. "You really have to be a miser to steal these Christmas displays."
Vandals and thieves have struck Christmas decorations eight times during the past week in Eagan, compared with four times for all of December last year, police report. Most other Twin Cities police departments haven't seen a similar increase. In fact, many have seen a drop this year.
Eagan police can't really explain the increase because they have no suspects and they don't know if the cases are linked, said police spokeswoman Jennifer Ruby.
"It's a very frustrating crime for us, too, because it's one that's difficult to solve," she said. "It's not so much a huge financial loss for people, but they feel violated, and the idea that you can't put out Christmas decorations without a problem is discouraging."
John Morgan found his nativity scene disrupted when he went outside to get the newspaper Saturday morning. A plastic Wise Man and baby Jesus figurine were missing from his elaborate display. In their place, a holiday Snoopy figurine had been deposited in his yard.
"I was very angry because I couldn't understand why someone would do this," he said. "It's upsetting because it takes a lot of time and energy to put these displays together and then someone ruins it."
Maplewood police also have received more reports this year of Christmas-decoration thefts. Fifteen items have been stolen so far this year, compared with the norm of five to seven during the Christmas season, said Sgt. Scott L. Steffen.
In Eagan, police have recovered some pilfered decorations -- including two candy canes, two penguins and two angels -- and are holding them in an evidence room until they can be claimed.
Janice Kasperek considered not replacing the Christmas lights that hung over shrubbery in front of her home when they were mutilated.
"Then I decided that I wouldn't let this ruin my Christmas spirit," she said. "You do these things to help beautify your neighborhood and I'm not going to let someone who's not in the Christmas spirit take that away."
Eagan police urge anyone to contact them if they observe a Grinch with "termites in his smile" and "garlic in his soul" disturbing Christmas decorations.
Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at mgottfried@pioneer press.com or (651) 228-5262.
Monday December 3, 2001 10:25 AM ET
Teacher Banned for Spilling the Beans on Santa
CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian primary school banned a teacher after she told a class of six year olds that Santa Claus does not exist.
Angry parents from the Corowa public school demanded action when some children arrived home in tears after a reserve teacher, on her first day on the job, told them their parents brought their presents.
``Santa Claus has always visited our house at Christmas,'' mother Vanessa Lohse told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
``My three kids (aged five, six, and eight) don't believe Santa is real now -- it's really put a damper on Christmas.''
The school's headmaster Ian Paynter referred complaints about the incident to the New South Wales education department.
``She was a casual teacher but she won't be coming back,'' a department spokesman told Reuters.
``(She) was not disciplined but did receive counseling about the age appropriateness of responses to children's questions.''
The spokeswoman said the education department had no formal position on Santa Claus but advised teachers to tell students to ask their parents when questions about Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy arose.
The teacher, who usually takes high school students, could not be reached for comment.
Saturday December 15, 2001
Bah Humbuggery at King County
If you work for King County, Washington, you better not say Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah to fellow employees, or adorn your workplace with anything of even a faintly religious nature - using such traditional Christmas or Hanukkah observances is strictly verboten by the county's version of the PC Gestapo.
That's the latest PC absurdity uncovered by the feisty Pacific Justice Institute which found a Scrooge-like memo written by King County Executive Ron Sims in which he orders employees not to "decorate their work areas with religious symbols or make specific religious references in their holiday speech," the Institute reports.
Under this asinine "religion-neutral" policy, any County employee who wants to share the joy of the season with fellow workers may not do so by saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah". Stick to such "inclusive" greetings as "Happy Holidays" or "Holiday Greetings" if you want to avoid being harassed by the County's PC police.
The Pacific Justice Institute, along with affiliate King County attorney Paul Petry, has written Mr. Sims warning him that the First Amendment free speech rights of County employees are being infringed upon. Sims was also informed that County employees of religious faith were being discriminated against in violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act.
"In light of these civil rights abuses, a demand was made that the 'religion-neutral' policy not be enforced, Executive Sims' memo be retracted, and all County employees be duly informed of their rights to religious expression in the workplace," the Institute added.
"This policy is an outrageous violation of the free speech rights and religious freedom of every worker in King County," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute "We have made a commitment to fully defend the rights of these employees without charge should the County Executive not comply with our demands."
The Pacific Justice Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties.
All together now - Merry Christmas Mr. Sims. Happy Hanukkah Mr. Sims.
Prisoners not allowed holy Christmas cards
A prisoner is considering legal action because he is not allowed religious Christmas cards.
William Dzugnat, a Catholic inmate at Gardner Prison, Massachusetts, wants to send relatives religious cards.
But only secular ones are available and he says it impinges on his free exercise of religion.
Dzugnat has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, who are supporting his claim.
Prison spokesman said prisoners could write their own greeting inside the secular cards, "Otherwise, you'd have to carry numerous types of spiritual cards."
Ronal Madnick, of the ACLU says inmates should be able to order the cards from outside the prison. "We're not asking for too much," he said.
He said it was absurd to expect inmates to write their own messages because studies showed 75% of prisoners were illiterate.
Previously the prison chaplain handed out religious cards but now they had to be security checked first, making it too big a job.
Story filed: 16:31 Thursday 6th December 2001
Tuesday November 27, 2001 08:05 PM EST
Kensington Bans Santa ClausSanta Claus might as well stay at the North Pole, because the un-welcome mat is out for him in Kensington.
The Montgomery County community has banned the jolly old man from its annual tree lighting ceremony this Sunday.
The reason? Kensington Mayor Lynn Raufaste says that two families in town "felt that they would be uncomfortable" with Santa being part of the event. So the town council showed Santa the door.
The families, who don't celebrate Christmas, say Santa is synonymous with the holiday and they feel excluded.
In years past, Santa would arrive on a fire truck and light the tree with the mayor. But on Sunday, the mayor will light the tree herself, something she calls "a shame."
Copyright 2001 ABC 7 WJLA-TV
Friday December 14 10:39 AM EST
VA Hospital Nixes MenorahsEven though menorah candles are being lit around the world during the holiday of Chanukah, the lights are out at one Palm Beach County hospital. Last week, administrators at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center were threatened with a lawsuit for displaying menorahs inside a public building.
Hospital officials took the menorahs down, angering members of the Jewish community.
"It was very upsetting when I was told I had to take (the menorahs) back," hospital employee Edith Crosby said. Crosby has decorated the hospital with menorahs for six years, but this year, administrators told her to take the menorahs down.
"We have a lot of Jewish patients and volunteers, and this is a holiday," Crosby said.
"We had several complaints, and because we are a federal agency, the legal staff stated (the menorahs) had to be removed," hospital spokesman Phil Kaplan said.
Hospital administrators maintain that they had no choice but to take down the menorahs because of court rulings that state a menorah is a religious symbol.
Sidney Levy, a VA hospital volunteer and member of a group called Jewish War Veterans, disagrees with the decision. He believes, as many Jews, that the menorah is a holiday symbol that spans religions, much like the Christmas tree.
"There are 1,500 volunteers at the VA hospital and 80 percent are Jews and I think it's a slap in the face to those people," Levy said.
Members of the County Jewish Federation said they would fight the decision to take the menorahs down at the VA hospital. They plan to meet Monday with lawyers and several area politicians.
Child Santa booted out of mallTue Dec 18 2001 19:43:34 ET
A 6-year-old boy who dressed up like Santa Claus and handed out presents from a big red bag was told to take his cheer somewhere else by a shopping mall in Washington state.
"I was cuter than their Santa!" Joel Demmon declared Monday.
The 4-foot-2 first grader has been donning a red suit and flowing white beard for two years and giving away presents at malls and stores, his mother told KOMO-TV.
"People stop for a moment while this little Santa gives them a present, and their face lights up, his face lights up, and it's just a moment of happiness," she explained.
The boy cried after an employee of the Bellis Fair Mall in north Bellingham ordered him out over the weekend, saying he was competing with the mall's own Santa and creating liability issues by giving out toys.
Bellis Fair spokeswoman Mary Vermillion said the would-be St. Nick got the boot "in fairness to everybody who wants access to the mall, so we avoid any unfortunate situations."
Joel has continued his gift-giving elsewhere in the town of 60,000, located 90 miles north of Seattle.
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