NJ Mayor Insists on Christmas Trees, Not 'Holiday Trees,' In His Town
After his town advertised a secular "tree lighting ceremony," the mayor of Robbinsville, NJ took matters into his own hands and sent a letter to his constituents that no such thing would occur.
Mayor David Fried sent an open letter to the residents of his town yesterday rejecting a title the yearly tree lighting ceremony had acquired over the years, turning from a "holiday tree" to simply a "tree lighting ceremony." The town would have a proper Christmas tree and celebrate religion, because the alternative is "just not right."
Noting that the town had proudly lit up a Menorah for Hanukkah, he argued in his letter that the Christmas tree was "not even a religious symbol" but a symbol of "celebration" that should be called what it is without fear of offending others.
According to The Times, Mayor Fried added later in an interview that he felt that "the more politically correct we become, the more we forget who we really are." He added that there should be no shame in "celebrating Christ's birth," just as "we wouldn't be ashamed to celebrate anything else."
In a letter quoting the Constitution, Mayor Fried told residents of his town that freedom of religion in America meant "we embrace all religious and 'the free exercise thereof'" as the country embraces cultural and ethnic groups. He urged for a return to days when saying a religious greeting was possible without "being scorned, or forced to ignore the fact that there are people celebrating those religious events."
While in partisan terms a fairly Democratic state, New Jersey has had numerous instances of residents standing up for the religious freedom to acknowledge the Christmas holiday. Just last month, the town of Bordentown banned students from singing Christmas songs that explicitly mention the birth of Jesus or the religious meaning behind the holiday. The attempt at banning such songs as "Silent Night" and "Angels We Have Heard On High" at elementary schools received such a significant backlash, the town's Superintendent of Schools rescinded the policy.
In response to the Bordentown controversy, Republican legislator Ronald Dancer introduced a bill last month that would give schools specific instructions on how to celebrate holidays. The measure would allow schools explicitly to display religious symbols as long as they represented more than one religion, thus preventing schools from claiming a violation of the Establishment Clause should they display a Christmas tree.