Ashland's Silly Tree Kerfuffle

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The Wandering Eye is as liberal as the next guy - probably more so - but when liberals get on their self-righteous political correctness kick, they frankly give me a pain in the ass.

Down in Ashland, also known as the Berkeley of Southern Oregon, a fracas erupted this holiday season over whether an evergreen tree (actually, a fake evergreen tree) in a public school was a Christmas tree or a "giving tree."

According to the Ashland Daily Tidings, Michelle Zundell, principal of Bellview Elementary School, removed the tree after a "three or four" parents complained it was a religious symbol. The tree was decorated with lights and with tags requesting gifts for needy children.

"When Bellview students returned from Thanksgiving break ... two snowmen figures" - they appear to be made out of barbed wire - "sat where the 5-foot-tall giving tree had been in the school's lobby," the Daily Tidings reported. "The decorations from the artificial tree ... had been transferred to the snowmen."

Even though the US Supreme Court has ruled that trees, Santa Claus images and Dreidls are secular symbols and as such are permissible in public schools, Zundell promulgated a new school policy banning them.

"Because we have compulsory attendance in our schools, we need to be more sensitive than the law requires," Zundell said. "The displays promoted by a public school should be religiously neutral."

But the banishment of the tree prompted more angry backlash than its presence did. "The move has upset dozens of parents who say the tree was not a religious symbol, but a way to celebrate the holiday season and help those in need," the Daily Tidings wrote. It also drew hundreds of complaints from across the country, no doubt from the fundamentalist / Fox News crowd who saw it as part of the sinister "war on Christmas" being waged by the "secular humanists."

In the latest twist to this story, Zundell announced yesterday that she's bringing the tree back in response to popular demand. "It probably was not the right decision and that's why we reinstated [the tree]," Schools Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said at a public meeting. "We're not going to stick with a bad decision just because it was a bad decision."

With all due respect to the sensitivities of those on the other side, this whole kerfuffle was ridiculous. Evergreen trees have come to be associated with a Christian holiday, but there's nothing intrinsically Christian about them. In fact, bringing evergreen trees and boughs into the home at Christmas time was condemned by the early church as a pagan practice. It wasn't until the mid-19th Century that decorated Christmas trees became popular in Europe and America. (Charles Dickens had a lot to do with it.)

As the website religioustolerance.org puts it: "For many people today, [the tree] is primarily a secular symbol of hope for the New Year and the future return of warmth to the earth. Its future is assured in spite of opposition."

Amen.


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