TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Talk about an airing of grievances.
In protest of a Nativity scene at the Florida Capitol, Chaz Stevens has put up a Festivus pole with beer cans around it.
Sound ridiculous? Stevens agrees, but he did drive about 450 miles from the Fort Lauderdale area just to put up the pole.
"What's the point? There is no point. It's ridiculous. This is the most ridiculous thing I could come up with," said Stevens, an atheist. "This is about the separation of church and state."
Because Florida considers the Statehouse rotunda to be a public forum, people can use the space to express themselves or protest, as long as they first apply with a state agency.
Along with the Nativity scene and six-foot Festivus pole, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has put up a banner advocating for the separation of government and religion. A Festivus pole is also on display at the Wisconsin Capitol, along with other displays.
"Festivus for the rest of us" is a non-secular holiday made up by the television show "Seinfeld." George Costanza's father, Frank, made up Festivus after becoming fed up with the commercialism of Christmas. The celebration includes the airing of grievances during dinner followed by "feats of strength" in which a guest must pin the host before the party ends. Instead of a Christmas tree, Frank Costanza put up a plain aluminum pole — with no ornaments.
At the Florida Capitol last week, several dozen people gathered for the Nativity celebration, including a children's choir. The only people there for the Festivus pole installation were media and Pam Olsen, who organized the Nativity scene.
"I believe in prayer and you know what? I've been praying for you. I mean that sincerely, Chaz," Olsen said. "As a Christian, I have the Nativity because it's Christ in Christmas. And you have the right to have the beer cans here."
Stevens laughed. A theological discussion followed, with Olsen talking about her faith and Stevens saying Jesus might as well be Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
"You know what I'm praying for next year? I'm going to pray that they get rid of that thing," Stevens said, gesturing to the manger scene.
Follow Brendan Farrington on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bsfarrington