Controversy over Christmas tree, Bible Week

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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WISCONSIN, United States AP) — Republicans who lead the Wisconsin Assembly voted Tuesday to call the state Capitol evergreen a Christmas tree and formally recognise National Bible Week, moves they said were necessary to ensure Christianity isn't marginalised as the holidays approach.

The 64-30 vote on naming the tree was a direct response to Governor Tony Evers' declaration last week that it would be called a “holiday tree”. Evers' Republican predecessor Scott Walker, the son of a Baptist minister, declared the evergreen was a Christmas tree during his first term in 2011.

“It seems like the only religion we're willing to take shots at is Christianity,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke told reporters during a news conference.

Democratic Representative Jonathan Brostoff, who is Jewish, told Republicans if they want to help Christians they should pass gun control Bills to keep them from getting killed.

“Instead of doing something substantive and helpful, we're trying to politicise a tree,” he said.

The Assembly also voted 86-9 without debate to adopt a resolution recognising Thanksgiving week as National Bible Week.

“Bible reading has been a great encouragement and comfort for many people throughout our state's history and has contributed to the moulding of the spiritual, moral and social fibre of our citizenry,” the resolution states.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has called the resolution “highly inappropriate”.

“Dedicating a week to the Bible directly endorses Christianity over other religions, thereby telling non-Christian citizens we are second-class citizens for being the 'wrong' religion,” the foundation said in a statement released last week. “Imagine the uproar were the Legislature to promote 'National Quran Week in Wisconsin'.”

The spat over Christian symbols marks the latest chapter in an acrimonious relationship between legislative Republicans and the Democratic governor. It began before Evers even took office, when the Legislature pushed through — and Walker signed — measures in a lame-duck session aimed at limiting the Democrat's powers.

After Evers called the tree a holiday tree on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald tweeted that the move was “PC garbage”.


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