November 8, 2011

Governor Walker calls the Christmas tree a "Christmas tree."

But:
The roughly 30-foot-tall tree was called a Christmas tree from the first display in 1916 until 1985. That's when politicians bowed to concerns about government endorsing religion and started referring to it as a holiday tree.
Said tree is in the Capitol rotunda, which was protest central last winter. Seems like that darned rotunda is a magnet for trouble.
The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has opposed the term Christmas tree, saying it offends nonreligious people and amounts to a government endorsement of Christianity.
The president of that group, Annie Laurie Gaylor, called Walker's decision rude and insensitive to non-Christians.

"The reason that it was turned into a holiday tree was to avoid this connotation that the governor chooses one religion over another," she said. "It's essentially a discourtesy by the governor to announce that. He intends that to be a slight and a snub to non-Christians, otherwise he would not do it."
Here's the actual press release from the Governor: "Governor Walker Invites Youth to Decorate the State Capitol Christmas Tree." The term "Christmas tree" appears 6 times in the press release.

By chance, I was teaching the Christmas display cases in my Religion and the Constitution class this afternoon. In one of the cases, Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, there's a Christmas tree alongside an 18-foot-tall menorah, which the Supreme Court accepts as not violating the Establishment Clause. The Court says:
The Christmas tree, unlike the menorah, is not itself a religious symbol. Although Christmas trees once carried religious connotations, today they typify the secular celebration of Christmas.... Numerous Americans place Christmas trees in their homes without subscribing to Christian religious beliefs, and when the city's tree stands alone in front of the City-County Building, it is not considered an endorsement of Christian faith.... The widely accepted view of the Christmas tree as the preeminent secular symbol of the Christmas holiday season serves to emphasize the secular component of the message communicated by other elements of an accompanying holiday display, including the Chanukah menorah.
Isn't it funny that in all that discussion of what a secular symbol the Christmas tree is, the Supreme Court keeps calling it a Christmas tree?

91 comments:

antiphone said...

Where is Cain's birth certificate?

Geoff Matthews said...

And the menorah isn't a religious symbol?

I'd also point out that only some non-Christians are offended by the use of the term 'Christmas'.

fivewheels said...

It's not funny, because that's what it is. There's no such thing as a "holiday tree" and everyone knows that's true. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

Geoff Matthews said...

If Mormons aren't offended by Christmas trees, does that make them christians?

Freeman Hunt said...

My mother, an atheist, has multiple Christmas trees each year, and she certainly doesn't call them something stupid like "holiday trees."

JAL said...

Merry Christmas, one and all!

fivewheels said...

For the record, I could not be more non-Christian or more pro-Christmas tree.

Freeman Hunt said...

"What is that tree doing in here?"
"It's a holiday tree."
"What?"
"A holiday tree, haven't you heard of that?"
"Uh...."
"I figured that since it's a holiday tree, we could get it out on all the holidays. Today is your birthday, so tada!"

Meade said...

Weihnachtsbaum if you want get back to its roots.

Paddy O said...

I'm curious what religion the tree represents.

I've looked in my Bible, there's no tree in nativity narratives.

It's associated with the holiday Christmas, not the holy day Christ mass.

Amartel said...

Is it War on Christmas time again already? Gosh, time goes by so quickly. Why just last month we were sleeping in for Berate Dead Italian Explorer Day and Indigenous Indignance Two Days Off is right around the corner! So I guess it's that time again. We must now brace for that horrible of horribles, a decorated tree.

Amartel said...

Arab muslims dig the decorated trees. They have them at the malls in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Dubai. True.

Allie said...

Oh good grief, who cares if it's called a Christmas tree? This is nothing more than stirring up controversy to rally his troops for the coming recall. Why not add to the Holiday spirit by adding a Menorah, since Hanukah falls in December too? Invite some Jewish kids to join in .

edutcher said...

The more I see and hear of Scott walker, the more I think WI will give us a great Republican President some day.

Chip Ahoy said...

This is similar to a perennial dispute here in Denver about decorating the Civic Building with Christmas-colored lights. There is usually a life-size Nativity set up. It's lovely and attracts a lot of attention.

Atheist pay for nearby billboards saying that's out of line.

The billboards provoke me to think uncivil thoughts having to do with a paint gun.

Palladian said...

Even Hitler got misty-eyed at the sight of a Christmas tree...

Browndog said...

Remove Christmas from Federal Law.

go ahead, I dare you

Then, and only then, can you bitch and sue your heads off.

Until then, Let us Give Thanks...to the Lord, Thy God...on the 3rd Thursday in November...

go ahead, I dare you

rhhardin said...

It's a Christmas tree because it happens at Christmas.

You'd have to get after the calendar people to change the name of the day.

Weihnachts or something.

Shanna said...

The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has opposed the term Christmas tree, saying it offends nonreligious people

That reminds me, it's about time for my annual rewatching of the original south park christmas special. Still true, after all these years.

The Drill SGT said...

How about "Yule Tree" since an evergreen tree at that time of the year has pagan roots, and a Christian implementation

Synova said...

"I figured that since it's a holiday tree, we could get it out on all the holidays. Today is your birthday, so tada!"

LOL!

And never mind that "Holiday" is "Holy Day" and doesn't solve the Freedom From Religion sorts' dilemma anyhow.

Paco Wové said...

"This is nothing more than stirring up controversy to rally his troops for the coming recall."

So Gov. Walker is pulling the strings behind the scenes at the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Cool.

andinista said...

There's a juniper tree in the median of I-17, south of Cordes Junction, that some kind anonymous soul decorates each December. A moment of joyful man-made beauty at the edge of the dun-colored prairie, overlooking the harsh deserts below.

Should ADOT remove the decorations, and set up a surveillance operation to catch the perp, because some dipweed might be offended?

In the USA, the land of Liberty, you're just a supercillious dope if you are offended by the actions of others. For each of us live in a glass house. You should be thankful that you live in a country where the citizens believe in practicing random acts of civic beauty.

Dan from Madison said...

Amartel at 6.51: You win one internet for that comment, the best one I have read today.

Coketown said...

I love all celebrations, regardless of personal association. I go out for Cinco de Mayo, even though I had no preference for Mexico or France. I love seeing menorahs during the holidays. I just can't grasp the New Atheist aversion to displays of religious celebration--and this aversion seems endemic to them alone, since I know many non-religious people who love Christmas as much as I do.

Is it really that offensive? A group of people celebrating the birth of Christ? What is it about this holiday that fills them with such hostility that they actually take out billboards to express their bah-humbug attitude?

Jose_K said...

The xmas tree is not christian but a saxon symbol. A pagan would be the word. Christians have the nativity representation created by Saint Francis of Asis.
I go out for Cinco de Mayo, even though I had no preference for Mexico or France? it would be 14th of july, the apri de la bastille

ic said...

It's insensitive to call a tree holiday tree. How does a tree become holy around holy days? Why are those days holy?

Allie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jose_K said...

Im agnostic but I celebrate Xmas, I like gifts

Real American said...

Atheists are such fucking crybabies!

"Ouch! my feelings are hurt b/c of an fucking tree!! LA LA LA! I can't hear the word 'Christ'!" /sucks thumb

Just grow the fuck up, already!

Allie said...

It's a Christmas tree because it happens at Christmas.

You'd have to get after the calendar people to change the name of the day.

Weihnachts or something.

11/8/11 7:00 PM
We should call it a Tannenbaum with the huge amounts of Germans in Wisconsin, that would only be fair.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I love Thanksgiving. We're making good time. Be there in two hours."
"I love Thanksgiving too, but I don't see why we have to celebrate it at Bobby's house again this year."
"Now, don't get started on that again..."
"I swear, I swear..."
"It's not that big of a deal. Why don't you just ignore it?"
"Well, what kind of idiot decorates a tree for Thanksgiving?!"
"He says it's a 'holiday tree,' so he gets it out for all the holidays."
"A HOLIDAY tree?!! Of all the idiotic, ignoramousful, absurdistic..."
"Must we go over this every time?"
"Yes, we must go over it! Where did we go wrong with him? What did you do to have us raise such a ridiculous son?!"
"Now, Harold..."
"This all started with that stupid Solstice Party of his. 'Ha ha ha, Solstice' I said. 'If it's Solstice we're celebrating and not Christmas, what's with that tree?'"
"Harold..."
"'It's a holiday tree, Dad.' A holiday tree. And then the damn thing showed up at Easter!"
"Harold..."
"With eggs all over it!"
"Harold..."
"If that HOLIDAY TREE is out again this Fourth of July, I am going to throw it in his frigging pool!"

Synova said...

LOL.

Actually... we sold Halloween trees at work. Little desk-top jobs, Christmas tree shape, with Halloween colors and decorations.

Very cute.

edutcher said...

Allie said...

Oh good grief, who cares if it's called a Christmas tree?

Wanna bet the single-celled intelligence does anyplace else?

Coketown said...

I love all celebrations, regardless of personal association. I go out for Cinco de Mayo, even though I had no preference for Mexico or France.

I hate to say it, dude, but, on Cinco de Mayo, we are all Mexicanos.

Those frogs were nasty.

Synova said...

The "evil" player characters in EQ2 can get evil holiday trees at Christmas time to put in their houses. The "good" players can get pretty green or white flocked trees. The evil side gets a dead tree with no needles. There are various decorations that you can quest for, bats or glowing eyeballs and a wraith for the angel. The evil trees are the most awesome fun.

Deloras said...

Hurray, Governor Walker! Standing up for the truth.

Allie said...

Allie said...

Oh good grief, who cares if it's called a Christmas tree?
--------------------------------------
Mr.Ed said;
Wanna bet the single-celled intelligence does anyplace else?

11/8/11 7:28 PM
-----------------------------
Oh you horses ass, why would I care if it's called a Christmas tree? Explain.

rwnewsnut said...

There is absolutely no other reason to bring a freshly cut evergreen tree into your home and decorate it other than to celebrate Christmas. Therefore calling a Christmas tree a Holiday tree offends me. Why do I have to accept being offended?

AJ Lynch said...

Edutcher said:
"The more I see and hear of Scott walker, the more I think WI will give us a great Republican President some day."

Agreed. Walker seems to have enormous common sense. So much in fact, I am shocked he is a product of many years in public office.

Browndog said...

Yes, let's celebrate that we call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree-

Who said America's finest hour is behind us?

to boldly go where no man has gone before...

Revenant said...

I'm about as atheistic as a man can be. I put up a Christmas tree and exchange Christmas presents; it is about a "religious" a holiday as Halloween, in my book.

caplight said...

Will the #Occupy sites have Christmas trees? Will Santa visit the tents of the good little girl and boy demonstrators? Will the oil run out in their Coleman lamps during the eight days of Hanuka? Will there be wassailing or wailing or both? Will the MSM find some self declared homeless family with child and portray them as the modern Holy Family for whom there is no room in the inn? (Bet the farm on that last one) Will the #Occupy drummers turn into Little Drummer Boys if only for one magic night? Will Amal and the night visitors really be a band of perverts going from tent to tent for a little Christmas spice and cheer?

rwnewsnut said...

Monitor the various dinners given at the White House.

Why can't they say it's a Christmas dinner?

The White House has Ramadan, Eid Al-Adha, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, etc... dinners. Those festivities are respected. Why then does the Christmas party/dinner need to be called a Holiday Party?

That offends me.

Allie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Is it Christmas already?

In my experience, Christians have demonstrated a superior tolerance for people who do not accept their faith.

So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Allie said...

Why of course there will be, Caplight. Jesus and Santa loves everyone, well some of the naughty protesters may get coal in their stocking, but Jesus will forgive them their trespasses.

Allie said...

Issue 2 losing in Ohio, Repeal! Next up Recall Walker!

David said...

It's a Christmas tree in all its capitalist splendor. Christ died for our sins. Your results may vary.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Of course Christmas trees exclude non-Christians. They call to mind the terrible years of the First Crusade, where Christians would ride through Jeruslamen in sleighs pulled by reindeer, hurling blazing Yule logs at the Muslims and Jews, and forcing them to wrap presents.

Chuck66 said...

Part of the dogma of the Atheist religion is to refer to Christian symbols as Pagen symbols. In reading the comments on the Madison and Milwaukee papers, the loony left can't decide if the try is a Christian or Pagen symbol.

Chuck66 said...

Allie and Ohio....this will be good for Walker. When the Ohio law is repealed, Ohio will have no tools to deal with its $8,000,000,000 deficit and will be screwed. I look forward to watching Ohio go down in flames.

Curious George said...

I'd be okay calling garage's a douchebag tree.

Allie said...

Issue 2 DEFEATED! This is great news for Wisconsin!

Synova said...

"When the Ohio law is repealed, Ohio will have no tools to deal with its $8,000,000,000 deficit and will be screwed."

But Chuck, not true!

Because what matters is having the right motivation and acceptable opinions. If your heart is pure, the numbers work themselves out.

This is a matter of faith, profoundly held.

I believe it needs a symbol.

Probably a tree with decorations on it representing the purity of spirit and motive involved in finding the true path.

PatCA said...

Hurray for him!

You know, the word "athiest" is beginning to offend me. Where do I go to make them stop saying it?

Curious George said...

"Allie said...
Issue 2 DEFEATED! This is great news for Wisconsin!"

Yep, now they can challenge IL for being the shithole of the Midwest...while we remain the shining star.

I'm gonna pop a cork the day they have massive union layoffs. And laugh my ass off.

Oh, and kiss Ohio goodbye for Owebama. THere is no bribe money left.

Cedarford said...

The progressive Jews, and the atheist, war on Christian symbols continues.

I would note that back in 1991 and later, in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Kuwait - Christmas was big. No Christ on a cross. But angels, pine trees with glowing ornaments, Christmas music, Santa Claus everywhere.

My Saudi laison sent me and my wive and 1st child a Christmas gift of myyrh, frankencense, Sudan incense - and complimented on our choice of family present for his 1st born daughter and 5 year old son.

We attended _____ daughter's college graduation in NC for our once-host Saudi family in 2009.

Progressive Jews, their lawyers, and the atheists are a greater internal threat to Christian expression than the Muslims are.

Iapetus said...

The SCOTUS had a predetermined result in mind when they started on their journey to their final destination. So what if they took a pretzel-shaped path to get there?

Or maybe they just found another one of those judicially convenient penumbras in the Constitution?

Jason (the commenter) said...

The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has opposed the term Christmas tree, saying it offends nonreligious people...

You know what offends non-religious people? Making sweeping statements about what we think, and people pretending to represent us. The Freedom From Religion Foundation can only speak for its own few members, no one else.

And 'holiday' tree? Holiday is derived from 'holy day'! That's the stupidest atheist-friendly alternative I've ever heard.

Beta Rube said...

Can the Christmas Tree be recalled?

Bob_R said...

Fear the American Pagan Theocracy!


My favorite Christmas story is by an atheist: The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. Death saves Hogswatch (Xmas) by dressing up as the Hogfather (Santa). Death finds it strange to worry about whether people are naughty or nice.

Bob_R said...

My favorite Christmas song is by Madisonians: Big Dead Bird for Dinner by Lou and Pete Berryman.

traditionalguy said...

The atheists are still mad about any mention being made of a gift of a baby boy destined to rule the world.

He seemed to them to be the perfect candidate for a convenient abortion, unless they bought into the virgin's report of getting pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

It scared King Herod too when the Astrologers figured out the truth from the stars and told Herod.

But what happened changed everything forever.

Browndog said...

In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)). And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).

To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52). And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.


This is an internet hoax....

Tell me...this is an internet hoax..please.

Allie said...

Democratic victories all over the country tonight! The chickens have come home to roost Tea Party.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

Liberals are only happy when they're unhappy.

Kit said...

Walker wants his opponents to pick this fight, so he can look reasonable to the seven percent of the Wisconsin public who somehow haven't determined whether or not to remove him. It's not a fight worth picking except to insist on a Festivus poll in the rotunda. Only in the designated free speech areas, of course...

As to what to call it - it is a Christmas tree. Why call it anything else? And the battle of whether is belongs in the capitol is one that I answer this way: Of course it doesn't and in the grand scheme of things this is not something I care enough about to argue about.

bagoh20 said...

What's this crap with taking off Sunday's too. A 7 day workweek is needed to feed the PC beast. Let's get that passed ASAP.

Revenant said...

The progressive Jews, and the atheist, war on Christian symbols continues.

Grammar fail.

Beta Rube said...

Roost? Is Pelosi Speaker now?

Ohio will turn into Greece soon enough, and Walker will look better than ever.

Meade said...

Billboards on Wisconsin state lines: "Welcome to Wisconsin - America's Not-Greece Land"

Carol_Herman said...

Up at Drudge. Obama put a 15-cent tax on every tree that is cut down to be sold for Christmas.

Gee. I thought only Congress can pass the legislation necessary to tax.

But Obama just issued this fiat. For every tree that is cut down, the goverment gets 15-cents.

Synova said...

"He seemed to them to be the perfect candidate for a convenient abortion, unless they bought into the virgin's report of getting pregnant by the Holy Spirit."

Not at all, Tradguy. The virgin conception is proof positive that abortion is an utterly necessary form of birth control.

Not only do all known forms of non-abortion birth control have failure rates, not even abstinence works. Only abortion gives a woman her right to chose.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Jose, Drill Sgt, Paddy O, etc.:

In fact, the Christmas Tree is most definitely Christian; who cares if it's not mentioned in the Bible?

It originated in the middle ages, when Germans had plays, on Dec. 24, to tell the story of Adam and Eve (little known fact: on the Catholic Church's roster of saints, Adam and Eve have Dec. 24).

Not hard to figure out: you have to come up with a tree, in Germany, in late December. What tree (with green on it) can you get? Fir tree.

What else do you need for your play? Some fruit. What fruit can you get in Germany, in December? Maybe apples from someone's basement. Another little known fact: Bible doesn't refer to an apple, but fruit. But "malum" nominative of apple (in Latin) sounds/looks like malum, accusative, of bad/evil, as in tree of knowledge of of good and bad...

FYI, they also decorated the tree with discs of bread. Why? Because they were Christians, and they were thinking about the Eucharist and the more important tree, the Tree of Life, and the other tree, the Cross.

Well, anyway, the plays got out of hand, bishops stopped them, and Germans who grew fond of the trees in the public squares started setting them in their homes. Decorations gradually changed over time to cookies and globes; lights come later; custom migrates to Victorian England, and thence to America; it hits Madison Avenue and Hollywood and you know the rest.

Christmas Tree is definitely Christian.

Curious George said...

"Allie said...
Democratic victories all over the country tonight! The chickens have come home to roost Tea Party."

You are as dumb as a stump, so let me help you out. The Tea Party has not lost a thing. That cannot however be said for those that you think as winners:

"(Kasich) reiterated that his priority was creating jobs and that he would not bail out municipalities whose budgets were in the red."

Big labor "wins". A whole bunch of state workers about to lose. That's the reality. And wearing stupid 60's attire in a pathetic attempt to regain your lost youth ain't going to change a think.

Fr Martin Fox said...

So how come no one wants to call the menorah a "holiday candalabra"?

Synova said...

"Not hard to figure out: you have to come up with a tree, in Germany, in late December. What tree (with green on it) can you get? Fir tree."

I think that in the middle of winter, no matter what the celebration is about or for, the obvious decorative items sans bright plastic and tinsel, are evergreens, (fir, pine, holly) and persistent bright red fruit or berries and candles, lights, yule logs, etc., as a response to the darkness and cold.

I think that people who worry a whole lot about "where did this come from" are missing the simplicity of "what can I use for decorations in December?"

Kevin said...

Grew up in Pittsburgh, where " the Crèche-Menorah Affair", as it was referred to, went on and on. If memory serves, there was also a holiday greetings sign, which by the time the case was resolved by the Supreme Court, featured the signature of the then-Mayor Richard Caliguiri. He had passed in the interim. The sign was to stay, unchanged.

Jay said...

Allie said...

Democratic victories all over the country tonight! The chickens have come home to roost Tea Party.


Really?

The Republicans winning the Mississippi state house and Gov race are big Democratic victories?

Who knew!?

PS, so glad to see you cheering the Ohio union bill. I mean really, I guess that vote means there is magically more money for union pensions or something.

Idiot.

OldSarg said...

An honest question: Do not the words "Freedom OF Religion" imply that all religions are welcome as opposed to "Freedom FROM Religion"? Why not a religious Christmas tree if the people desire it? Why not a cross on public land?

Why are those who are most out spoken about religion mostly atheist? If you are a non believer what difference can it possibly make?

AllenS said...

Governor Walker's approval numbers probably went up after this.

Welcome to Wisconsin, where you can celebrate Christmas

What's not to like about that?

Marshal said...

"The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has opposed the term Christmas tree, saying it offends nonreligious people"

A revealing insight into the famed tolerance of the left.

Seeing Red said...

Via Rantburg: The live tree industry asked the gov't to collect a 15 cent tax on live trees to promote buying live trees because people aren't buying as many live trees as they used to.

Roger Sweeny said...

As my Jehovah's Witness brother-in-law keeps telling me, the Christmas tree began as a pagan custom and isn't found anywhere in Christian theology.

Christmas itself is hardly a religious holiday for most people.

Calling modern Christmas Christian is kind of like calling a Domino's artisan pizza Italian.

Jeff in Oklahoma said...

Up at Drudge. Obama put a 15-cent tax on every tree that is cut down to be sold for Christmas.


"In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board."

Oh the stupid irony here.

Shanna said...

Democratic victories all over the country tonight! The chickens have come home to roost Tea Party.

And in my city, voters went to the polls and voted down the 1% tax increase they were trying to sneak in (which they only decided to do after one passed in a neighboring town) and oh, the mayor was sad. Suck it, Patrick!

15% tax on christmas trees? Is Obama the grinch in disguise?

Freeman Hunt said...

Could one of you Constitutional law types please explain to the rest of it how the government can impose a tax without a representative vote?

Peter said...

Q: What's a Christmas tree called when it's in a Jewish household?

A: A Hanukkah bush.

Has Hanukkah been vastly inreased in importance just because its observance occurs near Christmas? If asked to name Jewish holidays, how many non-Jews will come up with any other than this one?

"Season's Creetings?" What season is that, anyway- the winter solstice?

Overall everyone just tries too hard to be non-offending. And, truly, a Christmas tree in a government building is a Christmas tree, even if you call it something else.

Freeman Hunt said...

The tree comes out for every government sanctioned holiday or the term "holiday tree" is a farce.

roesch/voltaire said...

Given the various accounts of the origin of the "Christmas Tree" that seem to have their roots in early Rome as well as Scandinavian countries, it might be more accurate to call this tree a symbol of hope and birth in the future Spring. Of course I realize the commerce combined with ideological righteousness will insist on Christmas Tree, but I will continue to light the candles on our evergreen in the spirit of the pagan forces which run through us all.

Original Mike said...

Rev said: "I'm about as atheistic as a man can be. I put up a Christmas tree and exchange Christmas presents; it is about a "religious" a holiday as Halloween, in my book."

Ditto. The people who piss and moan about this are children.