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Late Night: Jon Stewart officially declares war on Christmas

December 7, 2011 |  9:30 am

When it comes to the presence of religion in the public square, Jon Stewart has long been something of a moderate. He's criticized atheists opposed to a crucifix at ground zero, and he's gone after Fox News for manufacturing controversy over President Obama's supposedly "Godless" Thanksgiving address.

But on Tuesday's episode of "The Daily Show," Stewart came down on the side of the secularists by officially and unapologetically declaring war on Christmas. The hostilities were provoked, as they so often are on "The Daily Show," by Fox News. The network has recently set its targets on Rhode Island governor (and Republican party defect) Lincoln Chafee, who committed the egregious sin of inviting people to a "holiday tree" lighting ceremony.

The incident provoked hyperbolic outrage from various Fox News pundits such as Laura Ingraham, who declared that "Religious freedom is on the rocks."

But, as Stewart pointed out, the founders of our nation were hardly what you might describe as full of holiday cheer. The Pilgrims actually fined people for saying "Merry Christmas," while Congress used to meet regularly on the holiday. "When the country was founded, Congress had exactly the same attitude about the sanctity of Christmas celebrations that a 7-Eleven does today: Yeah, we're open," Stewart quipped.

He also claimed that, if there has been a war, then Christmas is the aggressor. "Right now every public space in the country looks like it got hit with a 500-pound tinsel bomb. The White House looks like a yuletide episode of 'Hoarders,'" he joked.

For Stewart, Fox's complaints about the so-called "war on Christmas" have gotten so absurd that drastic measures were in order. This meant embracing the charges, rather than refuting them.

"I must make the hardest decision that any anchor of a fake news program has to make," Stewart said, sitting in a mock Oval Office decorated with pictures of Josef Stalin and the cast of "Diff'rent Strokes."

"My fellow Americans, tonight I humbly come before you to declare war on Christmas. We did not ask for this war, but neither will we shrink from it. It is said that we provoked these hostilities through our use of the phrase 'Happy Holidays.' That is a lie," he argued, claiming that it's just a shorter way of saying "I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," and is not intended as a slight to Christianity. 

In a pitch-perfect spoof of bellicose presidential rhetoric, Stewart demanded that "Christmas immediately and unilaterally withdraw to its pre-'67 borders -- pre-1667." If not, then the holiday would face the "full might of our secular, multicultural society."

Stewart closed on a strenuously non-sectarian note: "I wish you and your family in this season, a happy and heartfelt end of the fiscal fourth quarter."

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Tree Fighting Ceremony - War on Christmas
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Late Night: Jon Stewart on Obama's 'Godless' Thanksgiving

Late Night: Jon Stewart rips atheists fighting cross at ground zero

— Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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