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Senior home Christmas tree ban touches nerve about religious diversity, tolerance
The Willits News ^ | 12/07/2012 | Mariecar Mendoza

Posted on 12/09/2012 2:35:53 PM PST by Alex Murphy

News of Newhall seniors protesting the removal of a Christmas tree from their community room this week because, they said they were told, it was a religious symbol prompted a national outcry -- a collective bah humbug from Christmas defenders.

It was, many said, another example of the so-called "war on Christmas" and political correctness run amok.

The issue isn't new, but the debate over appropriate public demonstrations of traditionally religious holidays has now spread beyond blatant symbols like the cross and Nativity scenes to the unassuming Christmas tree.

Chalk it up to the melting pot, experts say.

"The country is becoming more religiously diverse over time so that raises all kinds of questions about how we get along," said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counselor for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberties, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization. "These issues come up every year, and I think it's borne out of people trying to figure out how to deal with the religious diversity we have in our country."

The recent controversy at The Willows senior apartment complex in Newhall illustrated how passionate Americans can be over their Christmas tree and their freedom to view it in communal spaces.

Residents said they were told by building staff that they had to take down the Christmas tree because of the presence of Christ's name in Christmas tree.

"I enjoy the beauty of this lovely tree as a symbol of harmony and kindness that is displayed at this time of year," Frances Schaeffer told the Daily News during an informal protest at the complex.

The 92-year-old Jewish resident said she's lived at The Willows for 23 years and has always looked forward to seeing the Christmas tree displayed during the holiday season.

Ultimately, management decided to keep the tree -- saying the whole incident was a miscommunication -- and even hosted a Christmas tree decorating party on Thursday.

But that didn't erase the more than 900 comments posted on the Daily News website that expressed anger at the management company for trying to tear down one of the most popular symbols of the holiday.

Residents from the East Coast to the South and beyond expressed everything from disgust to shock and bafflement.

"I'm appalled that we have come down to this level in this country," said Sue Brown of Elkhart, Ind., in an email to the Daily News on Thursday.

"Political correctness is out of hand. It's just another tool to abuse people."

In other email, self-described atheist Robert Jaimes of Peoria, Ariz., said, "Let them have a holiday tree, x-mas tree, or -- PC Police forbid -- a Christmas tree or menorah.

"It is decor and nothing else. The symbolism is held in the individual person, not the objects themselves," he said. "The holidays are a celebration in this country, regardless of religion or lack thereof."

But cultural observers say the Christmas tree is now becoming a polarizing symbol.

"All kinds of expressions that are rooted in the Christmas tradition are becoming targets," said Sabina Magliocco, a professor of anthropology at CSU Northridge who specializes in folklore and religion. "Even saying `Merry Christmas' is looked upon in some circles as not being politically correct because you're assuming everyone celebrates that Christian holiday.

The Christmas tree is part of that."

Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said rules prohibit congressional leaders from sending their constituents any religious happy holiday greeting.

"We can't say Merry Christmas, we can't say Happy Hanukkah, we can't say anything that even alludes to a religious celebration or specific holiday greeting. We can't even use the colors red and green," he said. "Are these great American holiday traditions next to go?"

But local attorney William J. Becker Jr. doesn't see that happening. He represents the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, which is planning to appeal a city ban on the nearly 60-year tradition of displaying Nativity scenes at Palisades Park.

"There are people who are trying to force religious neutrality, and that's never going to happen," Becker said. "There are at least as many people who respect the traditions as there are people who don't respect the traditions."

Even nonbelievers, Magliocco said, often adhere to the Christian-rooted traditions of America.

"If you look at American culture, officially: `Congress shall make no law that governs religion.' But historically, the United States was settled by Christians, so there's a level at which our daily life is influenced by that," Magliocco said, pointing to several of the country's customs tied to the yearly celebration such as school vacations.

Yet that doesn't prevent the yearly battles over the holiday symbols -- even when those fights appear to be resolved.

In the 1980s, the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union attempted to bar displays of a Jewish menorah and a Christmas tree at Los Angeles City Hall.

The California Court of Appeal settled the issue, allowing the government building to continue having a Christmas tree in the City Hall rotunda and a menorah -- which Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa lit during a ceremony Friday.

"There needs to be an admittance that there are plenty of religions here and then we've got to embrace it," Rassbach said. "The government shouldn't just put its hands over its ears and say, `I can't hear you."'

The office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich couldn't agree more.

"We don't consider this issue touchy at all. It's a clear issue with no gray area at all," said Tony Bell, spokesman for Antonovich. "There is a Christmas tree that celebrates the birth of Jesus and the menorah that celebrates the Festival of Lights and those are holidays that are celebrated by the vast majority of residents of Los Angeles County. There are some people who don't celebrate those holidays and they can do it. But we're about inclusive celebration of the holidays, not exclusivity."

"Religion is that one hot potato. It is and always will be," attorney Becker said.

"We're in an intolerant age right now. But the bottom line is, if you don't have a similar tradition, you should not deprive others from celebrating their traditions."


TOPICS: Evangelical Christian; Mainline Protestant; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: christmas; christmastree; tree; waronchristmas
Residents said they were told by building staff that they had to take down the Christmas tree because of the presence of Christ's name in Christmas tree....Ultimately, management decided to keep the tree -- saying the whole incident was a miscommunication -- and even hosted a Christmas tree decorating party on Thursday....

....cultural observers say the Christmas tree is now becoming a polarizing symbol. "All kinds of expressions that are rooted in the Christmas tradition are becoming targets," said Sabina Magliocco, a professor of anthropology at CSU Northridge who specializes in folklore and religion. "Even saying `Merry Christmas' is looked upon in some circles as not being politically correct because you're assuming everyone celebrates that Christian holiday. The Christmas tree is part of that..."

...."If you look at American culture, officially: `Congress shall make no law that governs religion.' But historically, the United States was settled by Christians, so there's a level at which our daily life is influenced by that," Magliocco said, pointing to several of the country's customs tied to the yearly celebration such as school vacations.

1 posted on 12/09/2012 2:35:58 PM PST by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy

This is our country. It has been ours since 1776, anybody that comes here can accept our ways or they can GTF out.

That’s the way I fell they can take Diversity and shove it up their hind parts.


2 posted on 12/09/2012 2:42:38 PM PST by Venturer
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To: Alex Murphy

This is our country. It has been ours since 1776, anybody that comes here can accept our ways or they can GTF out.

That’s the way I feel they can take Diversity and shove it up their hind parts.


3 posted on 12/09/2012 2:42:45 PM PST by Venturer
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To: Venturer

None of my Jewish friends have EVER cared about a Christmas tree or any other Christmas display. But you must destroy the faith believers have in their religion or they will not come to worship the Government.


4 posted on 12/09/2012 2:45:57 PM PST by originalbuckeye
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To: originalbuckeye

We are morphing into the Soviet Union where religion was destroyed and had to go underground.


5 posted on 12/09/2012 2:52:17 PM PST by phormer phrog phlyer
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To: Alex Murphy

You can get around it by dressing as a Christmas tree.


6 posted on 12/09/2012 2:54:43 PM PST by Berlin_Freeper
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To: Alex Murphy

“Tolerance” occurs when Christians agree to commit suicide.


7 posted on 12/09/2012 2:56:28 PM PST by E. Pluribus Unum ("The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state." - Cornelius Tacitus, Roman Senator)
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To: Alex Murphy

“The country is becoming more religiously diverse over time so that raises all kinds of questions about how we get along,” said Eric Rassbach

NONSENSE
America is currently 85 percent Christian/Jewish
Christians have no problem with the Jews holidays and the Jews have no problem with the Christian holidays.
95% of these complaints and issues arise from atheists and secularists


8 posted on 12/09/2012 3:00:32 PM PST by SECURE AMERICA (Where can I sign up for the New American Revolution and the Crusades 2012?)
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To: Alex Murphy

I was one of the ones who sent a strongly worded e-mail to the management company JB Properties that runs the senior citizens’ home.

Some of my in-laws are Jewish, and we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas when all of the families are together. The interesting thing is when we’ve had the family over for Christmas at our house, I’ve had Christmas music (religious and secular) playing in the background and the NY Jew has gone to the control and turned UP the music and told me it wasn’t loud enough! :)


9 posted on 12/09/2012 3:09:50 PM PST by Texas56
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To: Alex Murphy

Maybe the Christ hating Nazis should take a look inside the White House as it is filled with those CHRISTmas trees they are so afraid of.

As long as the good have no backbone evil will win and evil has been on a roll lately.


10 posted on 12/09/2012 3:16:28 PM PST by Wurlitzer (Nothing says "ignorance" like Islam!)
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To: Venturer
This is our country. It has been ours since 1776, anybody that comes here can accept our ways or they can GTF out. That’s the way I fell they can take Diversity and shove it up their hind parts.

You bet...I've had a belly full of most foreigners for 20+ years now...They drag in their Muslim and voodoo cultures, some worship cows or reptiles, others were raised on socialism and demand it here...I'm waiting for our friends in government to import cannibals from the Congo suburbs. No doubt they'll demand we teach and respect their witch doctors and cannibal way of life.

It's like that monkey movie...It's a mad house.

11 posted on 12/09/2012 3:21:54 PM PST by dragnet2 (Diversion and evasion are tools of deceit)
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To: originalbuckeye

I can’t tell you how many of our Jewish friends have attended our traditional Christmas Eve open house over the years. They LOVED that they were invited to a real Christmas party, not a secular deal. I like to tell them that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Jew.


12 posted on 12/09/2012 3:28:02 PM PST by keats5 (Not all of us are hypnotized.)
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To: Alex Murphy

I’ve never met a non-Jew who objected to a menorah. I’ve never jet a non-Christian who objected to a Christmas tree. I simply don’t get the issue; if you dont like it, simply move on.


13 posted on 12/09/2012 3:28:52 PM PST by muir_redwoods (Don't fire until you see the blue of their helmets)
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To: Alex Murphy
Chalk it up to the melting pot, experts say

But cultural observers say the Christmas tree is now becoming a polarizing symbol

In the 1980s, the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union attempted to bar displays of a Jewish menorah and a Christmas tree


It's these self-appointed elitists who claim to know what's "fair" who create a problem that never existed.

14 posted on 12/09/2012 3:36:11 PM PST by mikrofon (A Blessed Christmas to All)
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To: Alex Murphy

Why does “tolerance” and “diversity” mean that everything but Christianity is okay and Christians should shut up


15 posted on 12/09/2012 3:45:44 PM PST by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: Alex Murphy
Michael Gold, senior director of operations for JB Property Group, the management company for The Willows Senior Apartment Community, responded today

“We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have arisen in regards to the installation of holiday trees and other holiday decorations in the community room of The Willows Senior Apartment

Holiday tree?

Misunderstanding?

BS!

Bite me Mr. Michael Gold!

16 posted on 12/09/2012 3:49:38 PM PST by dragnet2 (Diversion and evasion are tools of deceit)
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To: phormer phrog phlyer

We are morphing into the Soviet Union where religion was destroyed and had to go underground.


Actually, communism involves conquering the human spirit’s freedom and love with manipulation and constant overseeing and threat of harm. It has to have total control over the human spirit. The Soviets were good at it.

If it were not for our constitution, our leftists would have done it to Americans a long time ago. They made huge progress in getting central control over health care and building an unconstitutional structure of special race-based rights to control and cleanse the culture and threaten people.

With centrol control over our health care they now have the power to decide who lives and who suffers and dies. The medical system will look like the abusive public school system soon. Mothers will surrender any freedom and self respect to keep their babies from being killed just like they will send their children to a school that abuses them day after day to keep their kid cared for as they work. Centralized control over America’s health care is huge progress for Soviet style communists.


17 posted on 12/09/2012 3:52:16 PM PST by SaraJohnson
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To: Alex Murphy

This country is no longer a melting pot. In a melting pot, the people who come to live here would assimilate to American traditions and values. They don’t do that now, because they know the country is weak and politically correct and will give them whatever they want if they yell loud enough.


18 posted on 12/09/2012 3:52:21 PM PST by CatherineofAragon (Support Christian white males---the architects of the jewel known as Western Civilization)
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To: CatherineofAragon; GeronL
Michael Gold, senior director of operations for JB Property Group, the management company for The Willows Senior Apartment Community, responded today “We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have arisen in regards to the installation of holiday trees and other holiday decorations in the community room of The Willows Senior Apartment"

Did ya notice Mr. Gold completely avoided the use of the word Christmas?

He only apologized because he was forced to.

Then he makes it sound as if the issue was about the "Installation" of the tree, as opposed to taking the tree away.

How slick...not

19 posted on 12/09/2012 4:20:46 PM PST by dragnet2 (Diversion and evasion are tools of deceit)
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To: keats5
“I like to tell them that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Jew.”

I love this, and you are so very right.

20 posted on 12/09/2012 4:30:18 PM PST by Humal
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To: dragnet2

I fully expect to see TV ads about the “HOlidays” showing people celebrating Hannukah, Eid, Kwanzaa and some vague thing called “Holiday”


21 posted on 12/09/2012 4:32:57 PM PST by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: dragnet2

Completely full of crap, he is.

What is a “HOLIDAY TREE?” In all of my forty-plus years, I never saw one!


22 posted on 12/09/2012 5:07:10 PM PST by CatherineofAragon (Support Christian white males---the architects of the jewel known as Western Civilization)
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To: dragnet2
Michael Gold, senior director of operations for JB Property Group, the management company for The Willows Senior Apartment Community, responded today “We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have arisen..."

Misunderstanding? A non-appology if I ever heard one. Short of saying, "I'm sorry I was so stupid to try and ban a Christmas tree from a seniors home and causing the residents distress", Mr. Gold should be fired, immediately. Before Christmas.

23 posted on 12/09/2012 5:15:15 PM PST by Flick Lives (We're going to be just like the old Soviet Union, but with free cell phones!)
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To: Flick Lives
Mr. Gold should be fired, immediately. Before Christmas.

Lets hope Mr. Gold's career never makes it to Christmas Eve.

24 posted on 12/09/2012 5:31:44 PM PST by dragnet2 (Diversion and evasion are tools of deceit)
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