Idaho Wingnut Knows True Meaning Of Christmas Is Suing Your Neighbors' Asses For Hating Baby Jesus
Demands immediate revision to end of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Time for another seasonal tale of holiday cheer and litigation, brought to us yet again by a devout Christian who feels sore oppressed by the nasty secularists (OK, fine, a bunch of other Christians, but bad ones) and their endless War on Christmas. This time, it's from northern Idaho, in the Coeur d'Alene suburb of Hayden, but for once when we talk about this area, there are no neo-Nazis involved. Oh, sure, there's an armed militia in the story, but that's pretty much a given in Idaho. Those guys show up for christenings, bar mitzvahs, and drivers tests around here. This is also one of those stories where to appreciate the full insane Culture War of the whole mess, you should go read the full article. But we'll try to do it justice.
The main thing to understand here is that Hayden resident Jeremy Morris isn't just any ol' devout rightwing Christian. He's the kind of fundamentalist who probably gets on the nerves of 1) probably most more mainstream Christians, and 2) a fair number of other fundamentalists. And by Crom, he's earned his right to dance the Superior Dance.
Morris grew up immersed in the religious right. He attended the church of evangelical Christian icon John MacArthur — author of the MacArthur Study Bible. He and his wife were married by Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay-rights Family Research Council. The guy who told him to go to law school at Liberty University, the largest evangelical school in the country? Jerry Falwell.
Also noteworthy about Mr. Morris's faith is that it seems almost single-mindedly focused on the celebration of the Nativity, which is all jolly and stuff, but in Morris's case leads to certain enthusiasms, as Inlander writer Daniel Walters points out. Morris even has a Christmas theme in the braces on his teeth -- red on top and green on bottom, with the white being provided by his Pat Boone pearlies. He happily lets people call him "Mr. Christmas" and "Clark Griswold." And around this time of year, he changes his dog's name, from "Ronald Reagan" to "Clarence." Like the angel in It's a Wonderful Life, not the pilot with the clearance in Airplane! He named one of his kids "Nicholas" because you know exactly why.
Don't you already want to hang out with him all the time, playing the Nat King Cole Christmas album and sucking on candy canes until you barf? Dude probably knows at least seven festive things other than eggs you can make "nog" from. And will give you samples. No, you will not be allowed to not taste them all.
Morris got filled with far too much Christmas spirit in 2014, when he put the fictional Clark Griswold to shame by stringing up 200,000 Christmas lights (as opposed to the puny 25,000 in the movie, which may or may not be a secular abomination). Go look at the spectacle here. His Facebook invitation to come see the sparklies (with an announcement he'd be passing the hat for two local children's charities) took off far beyond his neighborhood, some 900-plus people RSVP-ed, and so he spontaneously decided to really do it up big:
He called up a woman who owned a camel, recruited kids at Lakeland High School to sing Christmas songs and marshalled an army of volunteers from his church, Candlelight Christian Fellowship, to help out.
The festival lasted eight crazy nights. It raised thousands of dollars for kids with cancer.
"People came up to me, hugging me, saying, 'Please do this again,'" Morris says.
And of course, Morris considered the fantastic turnout a sign and/or wonder and decided God had sent him a mission, to bring the light of Christ to Northern Idaho via vast expenditures on tiny lightbulbs, props, and festive costumes. It's a lot more fun than, say, feeding the hungry or showing kindness to refugees. Morris, informed he needed a permit to hold such extravaganzas in the Hayden city limits, went looking for a new home outside all that tyranny, so he could maybe blind astronauts on the International Space Station. Yes, he and his wife went shopping for a home specifically so they could do an insanely large Christmas display once a year, as is perfectly normal.
So Morris found a development called West Hayden Estates where his lawyers said the subdivision's covenants shouldn't restrict his freedom of nuisancing. Then suddenly, Walters shifted to present tense:
He calls Jennifer Scott, then president of the West Hayden Estates Homeowners Association, and gives her a heads up about the massive five-day Christmas bash he'd be bringing to their quiet neighborhood. He tells her that he considers it his ministry.
That's when things get really ugly, really fast.
The HOA -- a body that usually gets cast as Mean Mr. Potter in tales like this, although we're pleased to say that in this version, EVERYONE comes off looking awful -- sent Morris exactly the sort of letter you might expect, with equal parts welcome to our friendly community and if you run a multi-day carnival you will be in all sorts of trouble, mister. And then there's the typically HOA-ish warning about attracting "hundreds of people and possible undesirables." Oh, but this triggered Morris's Christian Persecution Spidey Sense:
I am somewhat hesitant in bringing up the fact that some of our residents are non-Christians or of another faith, and I don't even want to think of the problems that could bring up.
The current HOA president, Chuck Norlin, wasn't on the board then and had nothing to do with writing the letter, but he reads that as an attempt at doing the whole multi-culti inclusion thing. He also said the letter went out without the full approval of the board. He knows all about the history because Morris sued the HOA for discriminating against him for being a Christian. Never mind this is Northern Idaho we're talking about, where the predominant flavor is white, Republican, and Christian, generally but not exclusively of a fundamentalist bent. A Christian wasn't being allowed to do his (disruptive, heavy traffic-generating) thing, and the HOA mentioned non-Christians, so it was off to the front of the culture war for everyone.
And then things got ugly fast? More like stupid: Fox News picked it up, complete with Todd Starnes looking pained and (ALLEGEDLY) drinking pee, as did a few mainstream outlets, plus some fake-news site which added a fake claim that Muslins were behind it all, because as we all know, because of refugee resettlement, Idaho is simply crawling with tens of Muslims.
So, big surprise, the state's "Three Percent Militia," always looking for a chance at publicity, generously offered to do some heavily armed patriotism at Morris's house, showing up one day to offer ITS help with security. Morris apparently declined, but the arrival of the loonies was too much for one older neighbor named Larry Bird, and no he is not the basketball guy.
Russell Deming, one of Morris's friends, says he witnesses Larry Bird marching down Ferndale Drive to confront Morris over the Three Percenters.
Deming says he remembers Bird telling Morris about how he's "'got plenty of guns, too'" and that "'if he needed to, he'd come and take care of Jeremy himself.'"
Morris records the tail end of the argument on video, as his wife confronts Bird over his apparent threat to "take care of him," and Bird appears to backtrack.
"I didn't threaten you nothin' ," Bird says on the video. "I may come over and offer him a hug. That's how I'll take care of him. And you just keep taping and filming. Typical shit."
Grumpy old Larry Bird, who is not the basketball guy, may be the most sympathetic character here, and he's still kind of a jerk. While Morris's friend Russell Deming didn't consider that a serious threat, Morris added it to the evidence that he's a persecuted Christian, and later told the judge in his lawsuit that Bird "threatened to murder me in front of my family, threatened in explicit detail about things that could be done." Like hugs, with malice aforethought.
Go read the whole thing. It's insane, and we haven't even gotten to the Christian Santa Claus who testified in the federal trial that he distributed candy canes that had a special Jesus message attached, "an apocryphal story about how the red in the candy cane stood for Jesus's blood, the white for his purity, and the "J" shape for Jesus's name."
See? It wasn't a nuisance, it was a ministry!
The jury awarded Morris a $75,000 judgement against the HOA for trying to kill baby Jesus with anti-Christian hatethink. Oddly -- probably because he too hates Christians -- Walters doesn't seem to find anyone in the subdivision who hates Morris's faith. Instead, they just seem to think he's an asshole. Can't imagine why, although it's worth noting that when Walters advises Morris he'll be referencing one of the depositions in the case for the article, Morris is quick to warn, "You paint me in a false light, and you will face a lawsuit." He seems nice! Very very nice, in fact, and probably not the least bit interested in what some silly mommyblog writes about him.
Also, as a little bonus, the Inlander followed up its story on the lawsuit with another story of Jeremy Morris, Best Christian, about an incident in 2017 in which Morris tried to start a crusade against the entire Hayden school board because one member of the board, Tom Hearn, said on his personal Facebook page, that confederate monuments were more about enforcing Jim Crow than about preserving history.
Hearn wasn't proposing anything specific. There wasn't a Confederate symbol in North Idaho he was targeting. He wasn't calling for a change in the Coeur d'Alene school district's curriculum.
But Morris was furious. Hearn says Morris, in Facebook comments (some since deleted), called him a "fascistic, disgusting excuse for a human being," an "ignorant buffoon," a "disgrace" and "Chairman Mao Tse-Hearn."
Things escalated, Morris demanded a place on the board's agenda, and then cried censorship when the board pointed out the online spat had nothing at all to do with the schools. Morris showed up outside a school board meeting with a prop showing books being burned, and explained school board elections are only "nonpartisan" in order to conceal the real political loyalties of every single board member:
"Every one of them voted for Obama, and they would have voted for Marx and Lenin if they were on the ballot. That's a fact," Morris says at his protest. "What they really are is they're card-carrying Communists. We need to expose these people for the frauds that they are."
Needless to say, he also accused Hearn of being an anti-Christian bigot, although Hearn says he's a Christian himself, which is ridiculous. How can anyone be a Christian and not honor the noble confederate cause? Also, why does the whole school board want to destroy the history of southern states thousands of miles from Idaho?
Nothing really came of the protest, but this much is clear: Jeremy Morris is a very nice Christian man about whom no one should speak unkindly, because golly, he will not stand for bullying.
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