News / USA

Dual Tree Lighting Illuminates Annual Holiday Debate

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is seen after a lighting ceremony, in Washington, D.C., December 6, 2011.
The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is seen after a lighting ceremony, in Washington, D.C., December 6, 2011.
Carla Babb

It's the Christmas holiday season in the United States, and with it comes an annual argument: Should local, state and federal governments put up Christmas trees, or even call attention to Christmas, in a country that has no official religion?

It's one of the most recognizable symbols of the season. But in the northeastern state of Rhode Island State House this year, the governor says the seasonal spruce is getting a name change: from Christmas tree to holiday tree.

"Times are changing and that's just the reality. The world's getting smaller. People are moving around. Religions are more accepted in our society and that's just the evolution that's occurring," said Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.

The decision angers some Americans, and the governor's office has received thousands of calls denouncing the change. A state legislator even decided to hold a Christmas tree lighting in the State House Tuesday at the same time of the governor's holiday tree lighting.

Janice Crouse is a spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, the country's largest public policy organization for Christian women.

"You know when it comes to Christmas time, the people who talk about inclusion and diversity and all those cliches of the left, they're the first ones to want to shut down Christmas," said Crouse.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians and celebrate Christmas to mark the birth of Jesus.

"We celebrate other faiths, we ought to celebrate Christian faith as well. And there ought to be symbols in our public square. It's very much a part of who we are as Americans," said Crouse.

Erika Seamon teaches religion in American public life at Georgetown University. She said the Christmas tree illuminates the debate over separation of church and state - a fundamental concept in American law.

"The importance of this is it's not taking Christmas or taking religion out of American society. It's specifically the concern that this tree and this language is associated with government property and government endorsement," said Seamon.

Christmas is a federal holiday in the United States. The courts have ruled the Christmas tree a secular symbol that represents the season without specific religious meaning. That makes it all right to put up a big tree and decorate it here at the Capitol and at other government properties across the country.

But not everybody sees the Christmas tree as secular.

"All symbols point back to Christ for me, the reason for the season we so often say."

Seamon said the change just might be the governor's way of avoiding trying to dictate the meaning of symbols for individuals.

"One could argue that what the government is trying to do in a multiculturally diverse society is just move to the sidelines and not be involved in religious discussion or symbolism or language in the first place," she said.

As long as there are Christmas trees on public property, the seasonal semantics likely will continue.


You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More