Rhode Island Governor Insists on Calling It a Holiday Tree

Taking a cue from Wisconsin, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee is calling Rhode Island’s state tree a “holiday tree”, despite a resolution passed by the State Legislature earlier in the year declaring that the tree customarily erected this time of year be referred to “as a ‘Christmas tree’ and not as a ‘holiday tree’ or other non-traditional terms.”

“I would encourage all those engaged in this discussion – whatever their opinion on the matter – to use their energy and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow Rhode Islanders,” Chafee said, offering an initiative to feed the needy as a good place to start.

But critics of Chafee’s seasonal semantics said the independent governor is taking political correctness too far — and defying the will of the Legislature.

The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Doreen Costa, said she plans to erect and decorate a tree at her Statehouse office on Dec. 6, the same day Chafee plans to host a tree lighting event. Costa said she’ll be taking up a collection of canned goods.

“Anybody that wants to go see a holiday tree can do so, but I will be decorating a Christmas tree,” Costa, R-North Kingstown, told The Associated Press. “It may only be a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree but at least it will be a Christmas tree.”

Chafee isn’t the first Rhode Island governor to refer to the annual Statehouse tree as a ‘holiday’ tree. His predecessor, Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri, used both ‘holiday tree’ and ‘Christmas tree’ in his correspondence. Other past governors have made no specific reference to Christmas at all with invitations to “holiday celebrations” featuring a “tree lighting.”

The 17-foot Colorado blue spruce at the center of the holiday hullabaloo was donated to the state by Big John Leyden’s Christmas Tree Farm in West Greenwich, R.I. Tree farmer John Leyden said he’s disappointed with Chafee’s yuletide word choice.

“It’s not a holiday tree or even an ‘X-mas’ tree,” he said. “We’re a Christmas tree farm, that’s what the name is.”

Chafee insists he’s just respecting the state’s history as a place respectful of all religions.

The colony’s hands-off policy toward religion quickly attracted sects that had been persecuted elsewhere. Rhode Island boasts both the nation’s first Baptist church and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue.

Leesburg, Virginia Suffers More Christmas Battles

If it’s holiday time in Loudoun County, it’s time for more controversy at the county courthouse.

What has become an annual feud over who is allowed to post holiday displays on courthouse grounds and where they are allowed to post them is taking the form this year of a battle over an old tree and a long-running nativity scene.

At a meeting last week, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 6-3 to discontinue use of one of the spots at the courthouse where a Christmas display by the local Welsh family had been annually sitting over two decades. The courthouse grounds committee told the Board of Supervisors it was concerned that the roots of an old sycamore tree would be disturbed by foot traffic and the installation, weight and removal of the display.

The decision effectively cuts the number of spots allowed for holiday displays on courthouse grounds from 10 to nine.

County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, a Republican who represents Sterling, is one of the board members who voted against the measure. He said the board wrote up restrictions that only allow the displays to sit on top of the dirt and that the tree is too far from road or sidewalk to be disturbed.

“This is not an issue of the tree. This is an issue where common sense must rule and common, constitutional rights must prevail,” the supervisor told WMAL.com.

Ten applications were submitted and accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for this year’s holiday displays at the courthouse, but the tenth, which was asking to display a Christmas tree, was rejected when the board cut the number of display spots by one. A public discussion will be held December 5, when residents can weigh in on the issue and discuss if the board’s decision should be changed.

Displays are currently set to go up on December 3.

The Loudoun County Board voted in the fall of 2010 to welcome both religious and non-religious holiday displays on courthouse grounds. Later that year, the board decided to start accepting applications for holiday displays on courthouse grounds in the order in which they were received. A group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation was the first to submit an application and used the spot currently in question to display an atheistic message.

“This is the same location that for three years running, crowds of people have shown up to protest the elimination or the barring, outright barring, of a nativity scene. Why are we revisiting this again?” Delgaudio said.

This year’s accepted applications, in order, include:

– The Welsh family nativity scene

– A sign calling Christian figures “myths” and promoting the Loudoun Atheists submitted by a Leesburg resident

– A banner promoting the separation of church and state by American Atheists and NOVA Atheists, submitted by a Leesburg resident

– A banner calling for “reason in the holiday season” submitted by a Lansdowne resident

– A holiday display possibly including the Tree of Knowledge from a Sterling resident

– A letter from Jesus submitted by a Middleburg resident

– A Santa Claus on a cross to depict the materialistic nature of the holiday, submitted by a Middleburg resident

– Two signs from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, one from a Leesburg resident and the other from a Reston resident

The tenth application, which may or may not be allowed to present a display, is Christmas-themed and submitted by Potomac Falls Anglican Church.

“This seems to be a punch in the nose to Christians at holiday time,” Delgaudio said.

Mayor’s Office Plunges Mobile into War on Christmas Debate

It is pretty rare that a Southern city engages in the politically correct battles of Christmas. But the Mayor’s office of Mobile, Alabama now know all too well what can happen when they use the nasty word “holiday” instead of “Christmas” in a newsletter.

A newsletter meant to spread holiday cheer caused a wave of emails to flood Mobile Mayor Sam Jones’ office.

The lighting of the tree in Bienville Square is a long-standing tradition in Mobile. However, this year the massive tree is at the center of controversy because of what the mayor’s office called it.

The city’s newsletter called it a holiday tree, and that didn’t sit well with some residents. Dozens of people fired off emails to Mayor Sam Jones and the city, upset over the term.

The office received so many emails the city issued another letter saying the previous one had been taken out of context.

“The newsletter said ‘holiday festivities’ … Some people said that meant the word ‘Christ’ was being taken out of ‘Christmas tree.’ That was not the case,” said Barbara Drummond, spokesperson for the City of Mobile.

Drummond said the newsletter was meant to notify residents about the upcoming events this holiday season. She said it was not meant as a display of anyone’s religious views.

“We at the City of Mobile won’t ever use this vehicle for someone’s religious preference,” Drummond said.

Still, FOX10 asked for the record: What is the tree downtown?

“Go look at it and whatever you want to call it, but we refer to it as Christmas and holiday tree in our newsletter,” Drummond said.

FOX10 only found ‘holiday tree,’ but the newsletter did say ‘Christmas’ and ‘holiday parade.’

Drummond said the newsletter was written by the City of Mobile’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department using language from previous years.

American Humanists Say Atheists Are Discriminated Against at Christmas

Last week it was American Atheists launching their anti-Christmas campaign. And this week it is American Humanists’ turn, this time claiming discrimination against atheists runs rampant during the Christmas season and they want it stopped. Their image on billboards reads “Bias Against Atheists is Naughty, Not Nice”.

“Nonbelievers in America continue to be the object of discrimination,” Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said in a press release. “We hope this campaign will spur a conversation about this problem that moves us in a positive direction.”

While Speckhardt claims that atheists are unfairly encountering “hatred” for their urge to advocate for separation of church and state, many religious adherents believe that non-believers take their opposition to religion too far. Additionally, some contend that atheist groups misread the First Amendment to mean that they must purge public forums of all references to faith.

“Many humanists and atheists in America experience hatred in their own communities when simply standing up for the separation of church and state, or fighting for other rights that should be afforded without question,” Speckhardt was quoted in the release.

The newspaper ads being placed by the group capture stories about atheists who have been called names and belittled as a result of their opposition to prayer and religion in the public square. The AHA claims that the group was turned down for billboard placements and newspaper ads in numerous towns.

“From past experience we knew that ad space is not always easy to obtain for groups with a secular message,” Speckhardt explained. “But the refusal to accept an ad with a simple and friendly reminder that prejudice is ‘naughty,’ is disheartening.”

According to the group’s press release, a bus campaign will also be unveiled in Washington, D.C. The messages on it will read, “Don’t Believe in a God? Join the club,” as a group of people in Santa hats give a thumbs up.

This year’s campaign seems tame compared to years past when ads were used specifically to mock belief in God.

Is Black Friday About to Get REALLY Ugly?

A group calling itself Occupy Black Friday and aligning itself with the Occupy protests nationwide is threatening to create disruptions on Black Friday. Their goal is to somehow influence sales in major publicly traded retailers to cause results for the fourth quarter to come in lower, thus hurting investors on Wall Street.

Keep in mind that we are not occupying small businesses or hardworking people — we must make a distinction between the businesses that are in the pockets of Wall Street and the businesses that serve our local communities. We are NOT anti-capitalist. Just anti-crapitalist.

Specific retailers the group is threatening include WalMart, Toys R Us, Amazon.com (how are they going to pull that off?, Office Max, Neiman Marcus and The Home Depot.

A call to action today targeted Black Friday websites such as BFads.net and BlackFriday.info by encouraging their followers to spam comment areas of both sites with spam linking back to Stop Black Friday.com.

So far it doesn’t appear that their efforts online or offline are having any effect.