A 22-year tradition in Georgia is no more — and all because the governing board of a non-profit believes a Christmas tree is a religious symbol.
The annual “Light Up Dunwoody” Christmas event has been canceled and now moved from Dunwoody, GA — located a short distance north east of Atlanta.
The event was sponsored by the Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association and is usually held at the preservation trust’s farm house. In addition to lighting the Christmas tree this year, the homeowners association wanted to light a six foot menorah.
“We were concerned about putting the menorah on the lawn,“ said Melanie Williams of the Dunwoody Preservation Trust. “We really wanted to be inclusive of everyone. We didn’t want to display things that would reflect exclusivity.”
They made the request last year for the menorah but was denied then because of short notice. So they requested early this year and ended up losing not only the menorah but now the Christmas tree — and that’s because the board somehow feels the Christmas tree is a religious symbol.
Williams said the board didn’t want to exclude any member of the community so it decided to ban all non-secular symbols. In a statement released to local media the board asks that the homeowners association move the tree somewhere else. Absent from the statement was the admission that the Christmas tree was the dominating feature of the event.
The homeowners association president, Robert Wittenstein, said he’s disappointed in the Preservation Trust’s decision and has decided to move the event elsewhere.
“It’s hard for us to reconcile a desire not to have the Christmas tree because its potentially a religious symbol, but welcome Santa and the reindeer,” said Wittenstein.
In a rather funny twist to this story the Preservation Trust board didn’t want publicity over the disagreement and local media reports they made threats against the home owners association if bad publicity was the result. Looks like someone will have to make good on those threats.
It would be important to note that at no time in this debate has there been raised the issue of Church versus State. This is a case of pure religious exclusion and discrimination by the Preservation Trust. In their effort to be inclusive they have managed to say that religion is to be excluded simply because it is religion.
Perhaps someone should educate the Preservation Trust about what the Supreme Court says about the Christmas tree — that it is NOT a religious symbol.
That simple knowledge could resolve this whole situation.