Kentucky Won’t Call it a Christmas Tree

The state of Kentucky raised eyebrows through a letter sent from the governor indicating this year’s Christmas tree will, in fact, be called a holiday tree.

The letter immediately drew the ire of local Christian leaders.

Beshear administration spokeswoman Cindy Lanham says the holiday tree reference is meant to be inclusive of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s. People found out about it Tuesday when the state sent a letter looking for someone to donate a tree.

Republican Senate President David Williams of Burkesville says Beshear is putting political correctness ahead of Kentucky values.

Pennsylvania Lights Enthusiast Sues City

A Pennsylvania man who has thrilled Christmas light seekers with a huge display on his home since 1987 is fighting back against those trying to shut him down. William Ansell named 18 defendants in a lawsuit including Ross Township, several police officers and the Allegheny County jail. Ansell said Ross police routinely harassed and intimidated him since 2006 for violating local ordinances.

According to the 38-page complaint, Ross police have engaged in a pattern of “harassment, intimidation and punishment” against Mr. Ansell.

He alleges that since March 2006, township police have unfairly targeted him for violating local ordinances — mostly for parking inappropriately on the cul-de-sac where he rents a house from his brother. When he has tried to complain to the police chief or commissioners about the treatment, he said, he has been ignored or cut off.

As an example, he said, when he tried to speak during public comment at the May 11, 2009, commissioners meeting, the commissioners had a police officer physically remove him.

In the month and a half that followed, Mr. Ansell said, he was issued seven parking violations.

“Notably, nearly three dozen vehicles were parked in the same manner in the general vicinity, but those residents did not receive citations,” the lawsuit said.

Other allegations in the complaint include that public works employees purposely blew leaves from the street into Mr. Ansell’s yard, and that he was targeted for harassment because of two stories about his holiday lights by local media in December 2008.

Ansell’s light display is renown in the area for its massive size that draws crowds and traffic to the area, causing neighbors to complain regularly to the city.

63 Year Traditional Nativity Displayer Sues to Continue Display

A Michigan man who says his family has erected a nativity scene in the Mound Road median in Warren, Michigan since about 1945 has filed a federal lawsuit against the Macomb County Road Commission for denying him permission to do so this year.

John Satawa of Warren alleges the commission has violated his constitutional rights. His lawsuit is backed by the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor-based law firm that promotes Christian heritage and values.

County Highway Engineer Robert Hoepfner said in a March 9 letter to Satawa’s attorney that the road commission denied permission for Satawa to place the nativity scene in the Mound Road median south of Chicago Road in Warren because the scene “clearly displays a religious message.”

To allow the scene on the public median would violate a clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits government from taking a position on religious issues, Hoepfner said in the letter.

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the law center, said in a news release today that “the systematic exclusion of Christmas symbols during the holiday season is itself inconsistent with the Constitution.

“Every Christmas holiday, militant atheists, acting like the Taliban, use the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ — nowhere found in our Constitution — as a means of intimidating municipalities and schools into removing expressions celebrating Christmas, a national holiday,” Thompson said.

Canadian Christians Fight Hindu Symbol in Public Display

The Calgary Zoo is defending its decision to erect a statue in front of the elephant enclosure.

The statue is a depiction of the elephant headed Hindu god Ganesha.

Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles and is often the deity whom worshippers first acknowledge when they visit a temple.

Many people like it but some critics say that the statue does not belong at the zoo.

Concerned Christians Canada says religious statues should not be in publicly funded spaces.

The group wants the zoo to remove the statue or allow other religious groups to place icons from their faiths around the zoo.

“This Ganesh, this elephant figure, that is in fact a god of the Hindu faith, is welcome here because it’s an elephant, because it therefore has relation to the zoo, the same could be said for the Christian faith and the manger of Jesus with all the animals coming around Jesus,” said Jim Blake, National Chairman of Concerned Christians Canada.

The Zoo says that the statue adds cultural content to the Asian elephant exhibit.

“This is not intended to be a religious symbol,” said Grahame Newton, of the Calgary Zoo, “This is a cultural symbol and it depicts the tie between our Asian elephant herd and the Asian culture.”

The zoo specifically asked the sculptor to remove the religious symbols and icons normally associated with Ganesha.

The sculptor says that in his opinion the statue is religiously neutral.

The zoo says it will not be installing any religious statues on its property and it won’t be removing the elephant statue.

Taken from Calgary.CTV.ca

Macon Christmas Lights in Money Controversy

The cost of spreading holiday cheer in downtown Macon is causing controversy.

Monday, Sid Cherry with the Urban Development Authority told city council’s appropriations committee that Bibb County would not be contributing the $2500 they thought was promised for this year’s display.

Appropriations Chairman, Mike Cranford, says the city has contributed about $5000 each year for the past few years.

He says this year, they were under the impression that the county would give half the amount.

Cranford says if the county does not donate, the city will try to find the additional money in its budget.

He says, “we asked the administration on both sides to look at this as part of the service delivery negotiations and asked the county if they would consider donating $2500 for the Christmas tree lights but evidently there is no Christmas spirit among them.”

Cranford says, “I never thought Chairman Hart was going to turn into a Grinch but evidently he is because the county doesn’t want to pony up $2500 to go along with the city’s $2500 for the downtown Christmas lights.”

County Commission Chairman Sam Hart says he does not recall the request to contribute to this year’s lights, or denying any request for funding.

He says the issue has not come before the commissioners yet and is not on the agenda, but he says it is something he would consider.

Commissioner Joe Allen says he thinks the county should help because the city is within the county.

Allen says he believes the county has contributed in the past, but says “we haven’t done much.”

He also does not recall making a commitment for this year, but says he has no problem with doing it.

Feds Ban The Rescind Ban on Kid Ornaments with Religious Themes

Just one day after banning ornaments made by children for the Capitol Christmas tree containing religious themes such as “Happy Birthday, Jesus” or “Merry Christmas” the feds have suddenly reversed course, allowing the ornaments afterall.

A letter was sent by the Alliance Defense Fund to officials in Arizona who are assembling thousands of ornaments from children for the annual holiday tree that is erected in front of the White House.

The change was confirmed both by officials in Arizona who have a steering committee to run the program and from officials in the office of the Architect of the Capitol, who administer the program in Washington.

Jonathan Scruggs, litigation staff counsel for the ADF, had written a letter to officials questioning the propriety of limiting religious speech and a specific viewpoint in the decoration program.

“The First Amendment does not allow government officials to exclude schoolchildren’s ornaments for the capitol’s Christmas tree merely because they communicate a religious viewpoint,” he said.

Jim Payne, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in the southwest region, said the local organizing committee simply took the restrictions provided by the federal office regarding size and requirements for the decorations, including the limit on religious speech, and re-posted them.

“Now the Architect of the Capitol has rescinded those. We already have removed the references to religious themes from the website. We will take all items that are sent in,” he told WND.

He said all of the decorations submitted will be forwarded to Washington and used on the tree this year.