This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
The Christmas wars may take a breather this year, at least around these parts.
Down in Olympia, the atheists are back, but better behaved. A Seattle man has applied for permission to erect a 18-by-30 inch sign that says, “In this holiday season let us remember that kindness, charity and goodwill transcend belief, creed or religion.”
Hard to disagree with that. The message is a far cry from last year’s provocation, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation’s placard that mocked religion as superstition and led the state to evict holiday displays from the Capitol.
Apparently, it’s easier to throw jabs from five states away than from down the block. This year’s sign is sponsored by Jerry Schiffelbein, the treasurer for Seattle Atheists, who readily acknowledges the black eye atheists gave themselves.
Washington was due for a reprieve. This state has had its share of bad Christmas press, from the ridiculous removal of fake firs from Sea-Tac Airport a few years back to the embarrassing prospect that state Capitol would have to give equal time to a “Festivus” pole.
Earlier this week, it appeared Oregon would be this year’s hot spot after an Ashland elementary school principal removed a school giving tree and replaced it with snowmen. Principal Michelle Zundel said the tree offended students who do not celebrate Christmas.
But Zundel announced Tuesday that the tree would return – thanks to the “incredible input” she had received. Hell knows no fury like a nation whipped into a frenzy over a perceived threat to holiday tradition.
That’s usually how these controversies play out: Someone overreacts, the public is outraged, reason intervenes. Cooler heads inevitably prevail – even during the holidays, even if all the collective consciousness remembers is the scuffle.
But the battles do not come without a cost. The state paid the $13,000 tab for the Capitol’s holiday tree this year rather than let the Association of Washington Business donate the tree as usual.
It couldn’t justify kicking everyone else out of the building and still allowing the AWB to erect its tree. Nor could anyone fathom the thought of the Capitol in December without a brightly lit tree.
So far, we haven’t heard any complaints. People may simply have bigger worries this year than policing the political correctness of decorations.