Thursday, December 14, 2006

Timber!--- More Christmas trees felled

Looking fir and wide, since I know you are all 'pining' for more tree-mendous stories about the felling of Christmas traditions I have come up with a bonus.

My Canadian friend and fellow teacher and minister Ross Bailey sent me the article below which sort of gathers up some of the evidence as it has appeared in the Toronto Star. All I can say is-- they don't make Christmas like they used to. When we start having to write a law declaring that a Christmas tree is in fact appropriately called a Christmas tree we are all in deep trouble. Or better said we have gone way out on a limb and are sawing it off behind us.

Tree should stand: Premier
Since there is no policy, each ministry makes its own Xmas decisions
Dec. 14, 2006. 05:51 PM

Premier Dalton McGuinty says it's "unfortunate" that a Toronto judge banished a Christmas tree from the lobby of a downtown courthouse this week.

"I think it represents a misunderstanding of what we are working so hard to build here in Ontario," McGuinty said today, noting Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and other faiths' celebrations are marked at Queen's Park.

"We enjoy the wonderful privilege of building a pluralistic, multicultural society," he said, adding no one should be "asked to abandon their traditions."

"What we're saying is let's share in those opportunities. Let's better understand those celebrations," he said.

Justice Marion Cohen who oversees administration for the Ontario Court of Justice at 311 Jarvis St., ordered a small artificial Christmas tree, decked out in lights and ornaments, moved to an administrative corridor on Monday. In a letter to staff, she said it is a Christian symbol that might alienate people of other creeds and cultures.

The premier said the judge's move "reflects a mistaken understanding of what we're trying to do here."

"It doesn't offend anyone when we celebrate Diwali at Queen's Park or celebrate Hannukah at Queen's Park," McGuinty said. "That's part and parcel of who we are."

A spokesperson for the attorney general's ministry said there's no ministry policy covering Christmas trees and that it's up to the discretion of each courthouse to decide how to handle the situation.

It's not the first Christmas tree to come under fire this season. Fourteen Christmas trees were removed from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this month after a rabbi threatened to sue for not displaying a menorah.

After a national outcry, the rabbi backed off and the Christmas trees were returned. The rabbi's lawyer said he wasn't asking for the trees to be removed, only the addition of a menorah.

Meanwhile, fierce public debate forced a Florida landlord yesterday to lift his ban on Christmas decorations that came with a threat of eviction for tenants who didn't comply. The landlord said he was merely trying to limit property damage and uphold lease provisions that prohibit tenants from attaching anything to the exterior of their units.

In 2002, Toronto bureaucrats were caught red-faced in the Christmas controversy when they sent out a news release dubbing the giant Christmas tree in Nathan Phillips Square a "holiday tree."

Then-mayor Mel Lastman, who is Jewish, ordered staff to restore the Christmas tree moniker and introduced a bylaw, that now prohibits the tree from being given any other name.

"It is - and forever will be - a Christmas tree," said city spokesperson Brad Ross today. Several Christmas trees from around the world are also on display in the city hall rotunda decorated according to local traditions.

"We celebrate the Christmas season. We celebrate Hanukka. We have a menorah on the square as well," Ross added.


Matt said...

How ridiculous. Of course, I like Christmas trees and menorahs. Jesus didn't seem to mind hanging around the Temple at Hanukkah time, either: "It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah. He was at the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon's Colonnade." (John 10:22-23, NLT).

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year! (:->

Grace and Peace,


PS: Your Christmas poem in the previous post was really wonderful. I will definitely be looking forward to the poetry volume. Pity it couldn't be available for the Christmas season!

SJBedard said...

Just an update on the Canadian situation. This is meant to protect other religions and yet the Canadian Muslim Congress has issued a statement that they should ban political correctness and not Christmas trees! So much for offending the Muslims.

Tim Chesterton said...

Here in Edmonton, for the last few years, the local Muslim Association has been writing letters to the newspaper wishing Christians a blessed Christmas season for the celebration of 'the birth of the Prophet Jesus'. They don't seem to be offended by Christmas at all - and I have no hesitation in wishing them a blessed Ramadan when that season rolls around, either. It's the secularists who are having issues, not the other religions!!!

Ben Witherington said...


This is a helpful insight, and my experience has been the same except for fundamentalists--- whether we are talking about fundamentalist Christians, Jews, or Moslems.

Fundamentalism is a mind set,not primarily a point on the theological spectrum. I have even run into fundamentalist liberals, who dogmatically insist that no other view is credible. Foundamentalism has to do with the lust for absolute certainity coupled with a desire to be one up on others by being 'in the know' and so in a position of power.

Good insight.

Merry Christmas,