That rotunda tree is pagan, not Christian symbol —reminds FFRF

It’s not even Thanksgiving, but the Christmas warriors are already at it at the Wisconsin state Capitol. The annual tree isn’t even up yet in the Capitol rotunda, but would-be theocrats are now declaring war against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to call the annual decorated tree a “holiday” rather than a “Christmas” tree.

Not content with voting overwhelmingly this afternoon (Nov. 11) to declare the week of Thanksgiving “Bible Week,” the Wisconsin State Assembly also, by a vote of 64 ayes and 30 nays, adopted a resolution today declaring the tree-to-be a “Wisconsin State Christmas tree.” The same resolution was passed by the Assembly in 2007, but died in the Senate. 

Obviously, calling it a “Christmas” tree pins the decoration to one religion’s holiest day. Labeling it a holiday tree, which it was called since 1985 until 2010, signals inclusion. Former Governor Scott Walker broke with tradition by piously dubbing it a “Christmas” tree. Evers was simply going back to a desirable Wisconsin tradition.

Kudos to the governor for also calling for a “Celebrate Science” decoration theme. Students are invited to make the ornaments, so Evers deserves praise for turning this into an educational moment. In recent years under Walker, cut-out manger scenes had even turned up the tree.

The legislators piously voting for this resolution should themselves go back to science class. They don’t realize that the real reason for the season is the astronomical event known as the Winter Solstice — the shortest, darkest day of the year, celebrating for millennia in the northern hemisphere with festivals of light, tree decorating, yule logs, gift exchanges and other festivities.

They should go back to history class, too. The Puritans actually banned the observance of Christmas Day, knowing full well all the secular trimmings associated with it had pagan roots.

While the Assembly “gotcha” votes may seem laughable, there is a darker side to them. The impetus is clearly Christian Nationalist, with legislators misusing their civil, secular authority to endorse and promote their own religious views and so-called holy book over other religions, and over nonreligion.

The Wisconsin Assembly seems to believe it’s a time for good will to Christians, and bad will to all the rest of us.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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