The War on Christmas was supposed to be over. But Idaho, and especially Boise, is still a tough place to be a conservative Christian activist.
Bryan Fischer's rough season began early, back in November. When the progressive Boise City Council was handily re-elected, and when Mayor Dave Bieter coasted to another four-year term, Fischer's analysis was grim: "For good or for ill, Boise voters have spoken."
He soon made it clear it was for ill.
"Outsiders moving to Idaho because of its family values may want to look to places other than the City of Trees," Fischer wrote in a post-election newsletter to supporters of the Idaho Values Alliance, a religious conservative lobbying group that has been active in Idaho politics for years. The group has been on the front lines of the fight over the 10 Commandments monument and is now focused on issues like bringing Bible study to public schools and reforming the state's no-fault divorce law in an effort to make divorces more difficult.
The state capital city, Fischer said, "is firmly in the grip of those who oppose the public acknowledgement of God and support the right of sexually confused men to wear dresses to work and use the ladies' room if they want to." The last point is a reference to the city's more open policies of acceptance toward transgendered workers in city hall jobs.
"Boise," Fischer opined, "certainly is no longer the friendliest place in Idaho to raise a family."
It hasn't gotten any easier for Fischer of late. In November, he issued the fundraising equivalent of a "going out of business sale" notice to fans of the group.
It wasn't quite Oral Roberts claiming that God would strike him dead if he didn't raise $8 million, but apparently things were getting tight over at the IVA.
The ultra-conservative organization sent a letter to its supporters early on Nov. 13 asking for emergency donations.
"To cut to the chase—IVA funding is to a point where, unless additional support materializes, the IVA will be forced to shut down," the letter stated.
Donations apparently began to trickle in. Fischer recently announced that thanks to the desperate plea, the IVA was back in the chips just enough to keep it going through about half of the next year. The nonprofit group has a budget of roughly $90,000.
And then the holidays rolled around, and the battle was back on. Fischer was forced to tangle with the mushy sentiments of elected officials who just couldn't get the "Christ" into "Christmas" enough. In Arizona and other states, he noted in a recent bulletin, elected officials stumbled over what to call their large decorated trees.
Thanks, then, to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Fischer noted. When the state's Santa in Chief announced the basics on Idaho's celebratory spruce, he called it—correctly, to Fischer's way of thinking—a "Christmas tree." The 60-foot spruce is the state's first live tree in recent memory, since the placement of a chopped tree on the under-renovation Capital steps is impractical this year.
Yes, Fischer was counting. He noted that in the governor's news release about the tree, he used the word "Christmas" no less than six times. Phew.