City of Merced Caves to Pressure to Keep Christmas Parade

Merced’s (California) “Christmas Parade” is back after a name change to avoid lawsuits was blasted by residents as politically correct overkill.

The city became organizers of the 15th annual parade this year after its longtime sponsors backed out.

Officials quietly changed the name from “Christmas Parade” to “Holiday Parade” to guard against possible lawsuits claiming the city was endorsing one religion over another.

Residents called City Hall and sent letters to the editor of the Merced Sun-Star to object.

City Manager John Bramble says officials “never wanted to be the Grinch that stole the Christmas Parade” from Merced.

Orange Country Courthouse Takes Down Christmas Tree

The removal of a Christmas tree from the Orange County Superior courthouse Monday has prompted a petition among court employees to have the tree – connected to a gift drive for poor children – put back. The six-foot artificial tree, which was adorned with tags seeking toy donations to ‘Operation Santa Claus,’ was removed Monday after a member of the public complained about the tree being in the courthouse, court spokeswoman Gwen Vieau said.

“It’s a public building and we have to serve the diversity of our community,” she said.

The tree had been put up in the courthouse every holiday season for about 20 years, said Orange County Sheriff’s Special Officer Cynthia Guerrero, who runs the courthouse’s ‘Operation Santa Claus’ effort. She was ordered to take down the tree.

Members of the public would come and grab tags – which sought donations for specific children. Last year, the courthouse got 374 presents for the toy drive.

But courthouse employees want the tree back up, and are circulating a petition among courtrooms. As of this afternoon, about 30 people had signed the petition.

“That tree holds the cards that contain the wishes and needs of those less fortunate than we are and shame on those who want to take that away from those of us who wish to give …” the petition says. “Now at the court’s darkest hour, our symbol of hope has been taken away from us.”

Though the tree is gone, the donation opportunity is still available. The courthouse has set up a table in the lobby for individuals who want to sponsor a needy child and provide him/her with a gift for the holidays.

Appeals Court Rules Schools Can Ban Christmas Carols

The federal appeals court in Philadelphia has upheld a New Jersey school district’s ban on religious songs during the Christman holiday season.
In their ruling, three judges of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted that such songs were once common in public schools, but that times have changed.

Michael Stratechuk sued the Maplewood-South Orange School District in 2004, saying the ban violated his two children’s First Amendment’s freedom of worship rights.

Not so, said the appeals court.

“Certainly, those of us who were educated in the public schools remember holiday celebrations replete with Christmas carols, and possibly even Hanukkah songs, to which no objection had been raised,” the court said in its ruling.

“Since then, the governing principles have been examined and defined with more particularity. Many decisions about how to best create an inclusive environment in public schools, such as those at issue here, are left to the sound discretion of the school authorities.”

Stratechuk’s lawyer, Robert Muise. told The Star-Ledger of Newark and Record of Bergen County’s Statehouse Bureau he’ll ask the full appeals court to rehear the case and he may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

NY Town Brings Back Christmas to Bring Back Crowds

A town on New York’s Long Island is hoping for better attendance at its 16th annual holiday boat parade this year by restoring “Christmas” to the event’s name.

The Patchogue Riverfront Committee says it decided to rename the event “Christmas Holiday Boat Parade” after taking over sponsorship from the local chamber of commerce.

Last year’s event was renamed “Holiday Boat Parade” after some residents complained the name wasn’t inclusive enough. But the committee says the ensuing controversy led to a dramatic drop-off in spectators. It says it’s restoring the word “Christmas” to recognize that that most of the participants celebrate the holiday.

California Bans Oregon Christmas Trees

California — the only state in the US with agricultural inspection stations at state border crossings — won’t be looking inside coolers for stray fruit coming into the Golden State. They will be looking at the tops of cars and backs of pick-up trucks for rogue Christmas trees imported from the neighboring northern state of Oregon.

Californians who travel to Oregon’s Curry County to get Douglas fir trees for Christmas won’t be able to bring them back.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture says it will confiscate the trees at the agency’s Smith River Border Inspection Station on Highway 101 in an effort to stop the spread of sudden oak death, a deadly tree disease caused by a fungus.

An agency spokesman says the ban applies to trees cut for personal use, and to Douglas firs bought from commercial vendors.

Douglas fir trees can host the disease, which exists in 14 California coastal counties stretching from Humboldt to Monterey. Other species of trees aren’t affected.

Oregon is the No. 1 Christmas-tree producing state in the country.