The Ebenezer Award

Becket's annual award to the year's biggest Scrooge


Each year Becket reflects on the most absurd affronts to the Christmas and Hanukah season, producing a list of outrageous offenders and handing the most scandalous holiday season transgressor a present worse than coal itself: The Ebenezer Award.


The 2019 Ebenezer Award Winner:

Dunwoody, GA City Council

It’s beginning to look a lot like the secular holiday season in Dunwoody, Georgia, where the city council has banned all religious symbols in response to an email from a disgruntled citizenThe Dunwoody City Council voted unanimously to bar religious symbols and displays in common areas of city-owned buildingsWith this sterilization of religious symbols that would make the Grinch grin with pride, the City of Dunwoody has earned Becket’s lowest (dis)honor, the 2019 Ebenezer Award, awarded for the biggest bah, humbug of the holiday season.  

The curmudgeonly city council originally proposed a list of acceptable and unacceptable symbols. But after (rightly) coming under fire for prohibiting the menorah, the city council scrapped the list for a more blanketly discriminatory ban. The city council cited a 1989 Supreme Court case, County of Allegheny v. ACLUas the basis for their policy, demonstrating a flawed understanding of Supreme Court jurisprudence concerning religious displays. Decorating with religious symbols is not appropriate in common areas of the city building unless the decorations are part of a display celebrating religious diversity or religious freedom,” the policy reads. 

The United States Constitution doesn’t prohibit religious symbols and displays in the public square,” said Montse Alvarado, executive director of BecketThe Supreme Court has long protected religious holiday displays from the affronts of rabid secularists.”  

Each year the Christmas and Hanukkah season inspires a slew of outrageous offenses against the free exercise of religion. At Becketwe do Santa’s dirty work for him, delivering a lump of coal as an acknowledgment of scroogery on a grand scale. Previous Ebenezer Award winners include the American Humanist Association, which tried to stop schools from sending care packages to children in need, the Department of Veteran Affairs, which banned employees at its Salem, Virginia facility from saying “Merry Christmas” to veterans, and the University of Minnesota, which two years ago banned from campus the colors red, green, blue, and silver; Santas; bows; dreidels; and even wrapped presents. (See list of previous winners). 

This year’s Ebenezer Award runners-up feature some familiar faces. Making a repeat appearance is last year’s Ebenezer Award Winner, the Durham, New Hampshire City Council for canceling its tree lighting ceremony to “remove religious overtones from its “Frost Fest.” Durham is joined (again) by last year’s runner-upthe city of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for (now twice) banning a local church from displaying a Nativity scene on the city’s bandstand as it had done every year since the 1930sAnd this year’s Eggnog Toast, given to an individual or group who had a Grinch-like change of heart, goes to the Mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, for reinstating the town’s traditional “Christmas Parade” after first rebranding it the Winter Parade” in October.  

Year after year, bureaucrats come together to micromanage the holiday season, unwilling to let people of goodwill and diverse beliefs live side by side in peace without the strong arm of local government instructing them in how best to get along,” said AlvaradoNothing says ‘re-elect me’ like a prohibition on Christmas Spirit, but that’s a lesson secularists seem to want to learn the hard way.” 

Becket wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a Joyous New Year to all!

See Previous Year’s Winners


What is the Proper Role of Government in Religious Displays?

  1. Because religious holidays are an important part of human culture, governments are allowed to recognize and celebrate those holidays with appropriate symbols.
  2. The Supreme Court has long upheld government holiday displays that send “a message of pluralism and freedom of belief during the holiday season,” including displays that have distinctive religious elements.
  3. Although public opinion and the law are on the side of religious holidays, some bureaucrats insist on scrubbing the public square of any religious references. This often leads to absurd results.
  4. One fairly recent tactic is to try to force local governments to permit displays that mock or belittle religion if the government permits displays that recognize religious holidays. But that’s not the law. Just as the government doesn’t have to include a pacifist memorial next to every war memorial, it doesn’t have to include mockery of religion next to every crèche or Christmas tree.