By 2007, Santa Claus, a beloved figure in America for more than a hundred years, had fallen out of sync with the times. And so it was that America decided to prosecute him.
"Your honor, the prosecution calls Mr. Santa Claus to the witness stand."
"Proceed," says the judge.
Claus is sworn in and seated. The prosecutor begins to pace before the jury.
"Though it is hardly criminal to parade around as a jolly old fat man whose spirit is the personification of charity and goodwill," says the prosecutor, "is it not against the law for our tolerant government to in any way sanction any religion? Are you not a religious man, Mr. Claus?"
"Ho, ho, ho," says Claus, smiling. "My origin dates back many years to Holland to a fellow known as 'Sinterklaas.' But one of my primary inspirations was Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop who was generous to the poor."
"Aha!" says the prosecutor. "A Christian bishop!"
"But today," continues Claus, "I've evolved to represent all things good and charitable. Even the Supreme Court, in weighing the constitutionality of using Santa figures on public property, determined me to be a marker of seasonal celebration. I am not a religious symbol."
"Touche," says the prosecutor. "But we are just getting warmed up with you, Mr. Claus."
"Would the prosecution please not waste the court's time," says the judge.
"Your honor, I hold in my hand the sworn affidavits of thousands of people who all make the same accusation against Mr. Claus: breaking and entering. Mr. Claus gained entrance to each of their homes through the chimney."
"Ho, ho, ho," says Claus. "But that is the only way I could leave each of them gifts."
"But he stole cookies, your honor!"
The judge rolls his eyes.
"Would the prosecution please bring forth more substantive charges," he says.
"Your honor," continues the prosecutor, "this allegedly charitable figure has been abusing elves for years. They work long hours without breaks and vacations. Mr. Claus is in violation of numerous federal workplace statutes. The elves are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisal from their boss."
"Ho, ho, ho," says Claus. "But we all work long hours at our North Pole location. We work to promote joy and happiness and to benefit all of mankind."
"If his abuse of the elves is not criminal enough," continues the prosecutor, "then consider his abuse of helpless animals. He chains them to a sleigh and drives them nonstop on a hellish journey around the world."
"Surely," says the judge, "the prosecution has more compelling charges that might hold up in this court."
"We certainly do," says the prosecutor, picking up more papers and presenting them to the judge. "We have additional sworn affidavits accusing Mr. Claus of stalking. He's been watching people when they're sleeping. He knows when they're awake. He even knows if they've been bad or good."
"Oh, brother," says the judge.
"Your honor," says the prosecutor, "this fat man in the red suit may look harmless, but he has been soliciting children through the mail and the Internet. He keeps an exhaustive list and has been checking it twice. Then he lures the children to the mall, where he entices them to sit on his lap!"
The judge shakes his head.
"This man is a bad example for our children," continues the prosecutor. "He encourages obesity and the consumption of trans fat. He poisons the homes of millions with secondhand pipe smoke. He is a symbol of our close-minded past, your honor -- NOT our progressive, secular present."
"Is that all, counselor?" said the judge.
"There's one more thing, your honor. Mr. Claus is a sexist. He has no respect for women -- no women in management positions. What's worse, he was caught kissing one boy's mother. He routinely calls women demeaning names!"
The judge turns to Claus.
"How do you respond to these charges, Mr. Claus?"
"Ho, ho, ho."
"I rest my case," says the prosecutor.
Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. For comments to Tom, please email him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.