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The holiday season is officially underway, and along with festive family dinners and joyous gift giving comes the annual debate: Merry Christmas or happy holidays?

Every year, the debate grows and grows, with viewpoints from both sides becoming increasingly emphatic. This year, there is at least one organization that has intensified its argument.

The American Family Association has amped up its tradition of naming companies “Naughty or Nice” based on how “Christmas-friendly” they are with their advertising. Using a four-tier ranking system in addition to the two categories, the AFA is calling out companies that use inclusive language — such as references to the holiday season or winter season in lieu of Christmas.

“If a company has items associated with Christmas, but did not use the word ‘Christmas,’ then the company is considered as censoring ‘Christmas,’ ” the AFA website explains.

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AFA’s “Christmas-friendly” rankings range in color from blue to red: A blue-rated company is applauded for promoting Christmas on “an exceptional basis,” whereas a red-rated company is admonished for using “ ‘Christmas’ sparingly in a single or unique product description.”

In defending the list, AFA President Tim Wildmon said, “We’ve become a society that is overly concerned that something we say, even when true or right, might offend someone.” But it seems Wildmon has it backwards.

As a non-Christian and someone who has never celebrated what many claim is “the meaning of Christmas,” I’m never offended when someone tells me “Merry Christmas.” So why, exactly, are others offended by a more general, inclusive and still accurate “Happy holidays” or “Season’s greetings”?

While it’s often dubbed the “War on Christmas” by these Christian groups and organizations, I feel it’s more precise to call it the “War Against Inclusion.”

One of the many facets of this debate concerns the phrase “Reason for the season.” Those on the Keep-the-Christ-in-Christmas side argue that it’s because of Jesus that we celebrate in December. Dissenters rebut that the winter solstice, the mark of winter that’s been celebrated since ancient times, is what came first and is more factual.

I can’t help but think how silly it is to claim that Christmas is what it’s all about. To me, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the new year all comprise the holiday season. So why not be inclusive and celebrate all there is to celebrate?

Of course, consumers have every right to shop where they want, and they are free to make whatever qualifications they’d like about their choice of retailer. But to suggest that companies that are more inclusive are somehow “against” Christmas is absurd and unfair. As one blogger put it, it’s “confusing neutrality for persecution.”

Rachel Wise is an online producer for the Knoxville News Sentinel. She may be reached here or via Twitter at @rkwise.

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