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R.I. governor's 'holiday tree' causes outrage

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
NEW YORK (BP) -- A Rhode Island lawmaker is calling Gov. Lincoln Chafee "Governor Grinch" after he defied lawmakers and decided that the state would have a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree."

The governor defended his decision by arguing that it is in keeping with the state's founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams as a haven for tolerance -- where government and religion were kept separate.

Instead of arguing over the tree, the governor called on lawmakers to focus their energy on feeding the poor.

"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," Chafee told the Associated Press.

But Rep. Doreen Costa, called the governor a "Grinch."

"He's just to the left as far left as you can possibly be," the Republican lawmaker told Fox News & Commentary. "He tries to be politically correct 24-7."

Costa sponsored a resolution last January declaring the tree customarily erected in December be referred to as a "Christmas tree and not as a 'holiday tree' or other non-traditional terms."

"He is refusing to honor what's passed in the House of Representatives," she said. "That's more concerning than anything else."


The governor's rebuff, Costa said, has become her line in the sand.

"I'm sick of being politically correct," she said. "Nobody's been offended by calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. If we have a Menorah in the State House, what are we going to call it -- a candle with sticks?"

So Costa has decided to erect her own Christmas tree -- at the State House. And she plans on lighting it on Dec. 6 -- the same day Chafee plans to host the official "holiday" tree lighting event.

"We're going to sing Christmas carols and drink hot chocolate," she said. "And I'm going to make a sign -- Christmas tree lighting to the right and holiday tree to the left. We'll see who gets the crowd."

Costa said her yuletide defiance has generated lots of buzz in the state.

"My phone has been going insane today by people commending me for doing what's right," she said. "It has to stop somewhere. This is me taking a stand for the people I represent in Rhode Island."

The 17-foot Colorado blue spruce was donated to the state by Big John Leyden's Christmas Tree Farm. Leyden told the AP he's disappointed with the governor's choice of words.


"It's not a holiday tree or even an 'X-mas' tree," Leyden said. "We're a Christmas tree farm, that's what the name is."

But the opposition tree won't be as nearly as big. Costa said she's got a tiny car -- and the tree will have to fit on the roof.

"It may only be a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree but at least it will be a Christmas tree," she told the AP.

Todd Starnes is the host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation. He is the author of "They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick" and the upcoming "Dispatches From Bitter America." This article first appeared at www.toddstarnes.com. Used by permission.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net


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