Is the Easter Bunny an endangered species?

In the wake of the national uproar over the celebration of Christmas in America, some are now focusing their attention on Easter, wondering if political correctness will have an impact on what many Christians consider to be the holiest time of the year.

This week in Minnesota’s capital, a toy rabbit, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words “Happy Easter” adorning the entrance to the St. Paul City Council offices were ordered to hit the bunny trail by the city’s human-rights director who claimed the items might offend non-Christians.

“I sent an e-mail that Easter is viewed as a Christian holiday and advised that it be taken down,” Tyrone Terrill told the Pioneer Press. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

But City Council Member Dave Thune had no problem with the seasonal display.

“I absolutely wonder how colored eggs and bunnies and chickens are Christian,” Thune told the paper. “I’m a little puzzled how people can be offended.”

In response to the bunny ban, the New York-based Catholic League is sending Terrill a full-size bunny suit.

“It is our hope that once Tyrone dons the costume, he will realize that even non-Christians are not offended,” said the league’s president, Bill Donohue. “And we urge him to read and digest a copy of the First Amendment, preferably while munching on some rancid carrots.”

Terrill has now posted a notice on the city’s website, stating, “I wanted to let you know that my request was not to remove bunnies or eggs from the City of Saint Paul, but the sign on the door that says Happy Easter. With that being said, I am sorry for all the confusion that this has caused as my e-mail had nothing to do with rabbits, eggs etc.”

Already, many stores and malls across the U.S. are preparing for seasonal events, with some refraining from usage of terms like “the Easter Bunny,” opting instead for more generic terms like “Spring Bunny,” or other names avoiding the name “Easter.”

One such location is the Somerset Collection, an upscale mall in Troy, Mich., serving 14 million shoppers per year. It’s now publicizing an event with its “Spring Bunny” and Walt Disney’s Winnie the Pooh.

The event caught the attention of WorldNetDaily reader Tim Edwards, who says, “It appears that this very important Christian holiday is under assault just like Christmas is.”

Linda McIntosh, the marketing director for the mall, denies any such effort at her location, saying the rabbit in their show has always been called the “Spring Bunny,” with a specific name of “Hester Fairweather.”

“It’s a spring garden and the kids exercise,” McIntosh said. “It’s more about keeping healthy.”

As WorldNetDaily previously reported, other malls have chosen alternate names to the Easter Bunny, including Baxter the Bunny, Peter Rabbit, and Garden Bunny.

Mall officials at Town Center in Boca Raton, Fla., admitted last year to caving in to concern over what could be perceived as religious promotion, and therefore made no reference to Easter.

“Because we’re such a multicultural community, it’s good just to remain neutral,” mall general manager Sam Hosen told the Palm Beach Post.

Another mall manager expressed apprehension over her decision to stick to tradition, hosting an Easter egg hunt complete with a cotton-tailed Easter bunny.

“I suppose the name Easter Bunny is fairly unusual,” Boynton Beach mall manager Andrea Horne said. “I know it’s probably not the popular thing to call it.

Ironically, while millions of Christians celebrate Easter Sunday each year to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the origins of Easter have much more to do with the season of spring, itself, rather than anything to do with biblical Christianity.

In fact, the term “Easter” is actually the name of a pagan – that is to say, non-Christian – fertility goddess.

In ancient Babylon, the goddess was known as Ishtar (pronounced the same as Easter is today with a silent “h”), and became known as Astarte to the Phoenicians, Ashtoreth to the ancient Israelites, Eostre to the Greeks, Ostera or Eostre to the Anglo-Saxons, and eventually Easter in modern times.

Historians believe because rabbits and eggs are symbols of fertility, they naturally became associated with the goddess.

Regarding the Easter bunny specifically, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes the character is not of Scriptural origin: “The Easter Rabbit lays the eggs, for which reason they are hidden in a nest or in the garden. The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.”

“We sucked a lot up from pagan culture over the centuries,” said Lawrence Cunningham, professor of theology at Notre Dame University and author of the “Easter” entry in the Harper-Collins Dictionary of Religion.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer it’s only English speakers who use the word “Easter.”

“The Anglo-Saxons had a spring festival dedicated to the goddess Eastre – it’s spelled several ways – and the early Christians in the British Isles adapted it. It’s just a linguistic accident.”

The word “Easter” is found only once in the King James Version of the Bible, concerning King Herod’s persecution of early Christians including the apostles James and Peter.

“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” (Acts 12:1-4)

The word Easter in the text is translated from the Greek word “pascha,” which is in every other instance rendered as Passover.

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