The headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service in Washington. (Charles Dharapak/AP )
Ringing like a Salvation Army bell, more Christmas-themed outrage is in the air.
This time, it’s a kerfuffle over some holiday carolers being ejected from a post office in a Maryland suburb outside Washington.
It seems that the carolers, dressed like something out of Dickens, ran afoul of a federal law that prohibits organized groups from assembling on post office property.
It’s likely no one would have heard about it, except that J.P. Duffy, a spokesman for the influential conservative advocacy group the Family Research Council, was among the dozens of patrons at the post office in Aspen Hill, Md, on Saturday.
Duffy, his wife and his 2-year-old daughter witnessed a postal supervisor hurriedly approach the carolers and ask them to leave. “He got right in their faces,” Duffy says.
Groups such as Duffy's have long warned that Christmas traditions were at risk by a growing tide of secularism. For Duffy, it was like watching those concerns spring to life in its own sort of Christmas--er, holiday--pageant. It hit a nerve.
Speaking of his daughter, Duffy said, “Her first experience with Christmas caroling included an angry postal manager. That did upset me.”
The Postal Service said regulations prohibit “public assembly and public address” in post office lobbies.
“For this reason, the carolers were asked to conduct their caroling in a public area on the sidewalk in front of the Post Office,” Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said. "We apologize for any misunderstanding regarding this issue.”
Duffy found that other post offices across the nation have allowed caroling—and he noted that the carolers weren’t asking for donations. “The only thing they were soliciting were smiles,” he says.
He posted a lengthy account of the episode on the Family Research Council website, and soon Fox News and other media organizations came calling. On Wednesday, the council sent out a mailer urging supporters to back a resolution introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) this month to protect “the symbols and traditions of Christmas.”
“We’d like to see Congress take a stand for the Christmas traditions we’ve all enjoyed,” Duffy says.
Every holiday season brings with it claims that Christmas is under fire. You might recall the brief (one-day) furor last month over a proposed “Christmas tree tax” by the Obama administration, a small surcharge that was to be added to the price of trees nationwide to help promote domestic Christmas tree production. But the Department of Agriculture quickly suspended the tax once word got out.
The Postal Service, however, appears to be holding firm on caroling, which surprises Duffy. “I thought they would apologize,” he says.
Here's a video of some carolers in a Georgia post office that Duffy found: