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'Tis the season

A banner, a hall of fame and the Knights of Columbus

The organization whose "Keep Christ in Christmas" banner in Pitman offends atheists is itself offended by a proposal to honor the cartoonist who "created" Santa Claus.

Only in New Jersey.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and service group that has strung the banner across the Gloucester County borough's Broadway for years, is among those criticizing the nomination of Thomas Nast (1840-1902) to the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

Nast's caricatures of Irish people as drunken apes, and Catholic bishops as lizards, are pretty vile stuff, particularly by today's standards.

But the man sometimes described as the father of modern editorial cartooning also gave us more benevolent and enduring images -- such as the jolly, white-bearded Santa and the equally iconic Republican elephant and Democratic donkey.

Fittingly enough, politicians of both parties want the Hall of Fame (a private entity, established in 2005) to delete Nast from its list of 50 nominees. The public can vote on them until January 1.

Perhaps only Nast himself could convey the quirky sweep of the Hall of Fame's pantheon – everyone from Shaquille O'Neal to Woodrow Wilson to Frank Sinatra. And pretty much all of the luminaries inside the hallowed hall could be found objectionable by someone, including Martha Stewart (jailbird); Paul Robeson (commie); or Jon Bon Jovi (good guy, bad singer).