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Rhode Island Governor Under Fire For “Holiday Tree”

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays” is a battle we hear about every Christmas.  Some people believe “Happy Holidays” is being too politically correct and taking the Christian aspect out of the season, while others believe it wishes good tidings to all regardless of their winter religious festivites.  Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee seems to lean towards the latter, having decided to refer to the tree at his Statehouse as a “Holiday Tree”, an action that has upset several lawmakers in the state.

Opponents of the governor’s standpoint argue that he is taking political correctness too far and violating state legislature.  In January, the Rhode Island House of Representives passed a symbolic resolution saying that any winter holiday tree be refered to as a “Christmas Tree” and not by any non-traditional terms. 

Chafee’s predecessor, Gov. Donald Carcieri used both “Christmas Tree” and “Holiday Tree”  during his time in office, and other past governors made do inference either way, using “holiday festivites” and “tree lighting” on their public invitation.  Gov. Chafee feels he is acting in the spirit of the founding of Rhode Island.  Founded in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams, Rhose Island was meant to be a land of tolerance where government and religion were kept seperate.  Rhose Island is home to not only the nation’s first Baptist church, but also the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue. 

The 17-foot Colorado blue spruce was donated by Big John Leyden’s Christmas Tree Farm in West Greenwich, R.I.  Leyden has said he’s dissapointed with the governor’s decision,

“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.”

In response to the controversy, Gov. Chafee believes those on both sides are wasting their energy and should redirect in a better way,

“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.”

In response to Chafee’s statement, Rep. Doreen Costa, the sponsor of the “Christmas Tree” resolution, has said she will host a Christmas Tree lighting at her office the same day as Chafee’s, and will take up a collection of canned goods.


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