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Officials reverse decision to bar Christmas trees

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 12/18/2004 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

County officials in Florida reversed a decision that banned display of Christmas trees in public facilities, including libraries, recreation centers and community centers.


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Christmas tree at Arkansas public library

Pasco County, north of Tampa, made the reversal 24 hours after the American Center for Law and Justice sent a letter [pdf filed] to officials.

“We are pleased that the county admitted its mistake and reversed its legally flawed decision removing Christmas trees from county facilities,” said ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow. “The law is very clear about this issue — the display of Christmas trees is constitutional and the county had no
legal basis in removing them.”

Officials ordered the trees removed because they were considered religious symbols, said Dan Johnson, assistant county administrator for Public Services.

Sekulow has argued five cases at the Supreme Court involving issues of religion in public life.

He advised that “before taking such drastic measures in the future, it would be beneficial for county officials to get a clear and accurate understanding of the law.”

The ACLJ’s letter cited a 1989 decision in which the high court said: “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.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court and numerous lower courts have held that Nativity scenes and menorahs may be displayed on government property without violating the Constitution.

This season, the ACLJ also helped reinstate the display of a Nativity scene in a senior center in Missouri operated by the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban
Development.

Meanwhile, an atheist couple is demanding that the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Wash., remove a decorated tree from its City Hall, even though it isn’t called a Christmas tree.

Sidney and Jennifer Stock say the “giving tree,” which has generated nearly $25,000 worth of donations, is offensive, reports KOMO-TV in Seattle.

“There are a lot of people who’ve come to this country, maybe have been here for years, who don’t feel freedom to say anything,” said Jennifer Stock. “So we feel we’re saying it for those people. Not just for ourselves.”


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