Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Not as well as hoped in Green Bay, Wisconsin:

A Wiccan display put atop City Hall last week after a nativity scene was set up was vandalized early Monday, police said.

A Green Bay police officer was flagged down just before 12:45 a.m. by a citizen who reported seeing someone on a ladder taking down a decoration.

The ladder was left at the scene and the partially damaged Wiccan wreath that was taken down was found behind some shrubs nearby.

The Wiccan display including the wreath encircling a gold five-pointed star was put up Friday at City Hall after Green Bay City Council president Chad Fradette received the go-ahead earlier last week from the city's advisory committee to install a nativity display....

Obviously, a two-faith display was unacceptable to somebody. And the situation has now become ugly:

Mayor Jim Schmitt's declared moratorium Monday on religious displays at City Hall did little to quell the furor that erupted in the days following the installation of a nativity scene on an entrance roof last week.

After police announced Monday someone stole and damaged a Wiccan display overnight that had been placed on the roof Friday, Schmitt ordered that it wouldn't be replaced and that no other displays would be permitted until the City Council debates the issue tonight.

Schmitt's declaration means that the nativity scene, placed by Council President Chad Fradette last Tuesday, is the only holiday display over City Hall's northwest entrance.

Everybody's got a symbol:

...Taku Ronsman, who identified herself as a member of the Unitarian Universalist faith, wanted to display a peace sign on the roof. The symbol represents one of the principals of her religion, she said.

"How is that fair to leave the manger up but not the non-Christian symbols?" she said when told her display would not go up.

Wendy Corriel brought a cross decorated with ornaments and wrapped in American flag cloth, a display she said symbolized the improper way that church and state were merging.

"I'm extremely irate," she said. "I feel like I don't have rights. This is not a religious battle, it's a fight for the constitution."

A couple of proposals clearly aren't going to make it:

...[Mayor Scmitt] described other proposed displays as "silly." He was referring especially to the Festivus pole and was not familiar with the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" display that an aide told him had also been proposed Monday. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an Internet-based parody of religion.

No FSM? Drat.

And a Festivus pole was proposed? Yup:

The putting up of a nativity scene at Green Bay's City Hall has prompted a tongue-in-cheek request from a suburban man for permission to display a Festivus pole on the overhang of the building's northwest entrance.

The Festivus holiday created by author Daniel O'Keefe during the 1970s and popularized by comedian Jerry Seinfeld two decades later is celebrated by some both in earnest and jest on Dec. 23.

The request by Sean Ryan of Allouez was made during the weekend....

A practicing Catholic who would prefer to see no religious displays at a government office, Ryan said his request to put up an undecorated six foot aluminum pole was intended to showcase how deciding what religions to include in the display can turn to the absurd.

"I was turning over how extreme things could get and how loosely things could get interpreted," Ryan said....

You know what? I have a suggestion: Put religious symbols on private property. Private property can be "the public square" -- the government doesn't own Rockefeller Center, for instance, but hordes of people come to see the Christmas tree there every year, and no civil libertarians complain. Merchants, fraternal organizations -- put up all the Christmas trees you want. Or menorahs. Or Festivus poles, for that matter. And tell the public to gather round.

(Last link via Via Democratic Underground.)

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