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Tree name squabble is pointless

pointless. There can be no argument over whether the state government should celebrate Christmas. That’s because it can’t. The U.S. Supreme Court in Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) said such a celebration violates the First Amendment. What the state can do, however, is include a Christmas tree (named as such) within an otherwise secular holiday celebration. Thus the high court ruled inclusion of a Christmas tree in public park display including a teddy bear, a dancing elephant and a Santa Claus house passes constitutional muster. What a state can never do, said the court, is endorse a religion.

Thus Gov. Walker could call the state capitol evergreen a Christmas tree because it always was displayed with a Jewish Menorah and Kwanzaa candles nearby and, at some point, a Seinfeldian Festivus pole. With a Christmas tree being one of the many religious items in a holiday display, the state, arguably, was not endorsing any religion.

Gov. Evers is playing a different game, but one where the difference really doesn’t make a difference. His seasonal display only has a tree (festooned with science-themed ornaments). He must call it a holiday tree. That’s not political correctness. It is a legal requirement.

Fighting over this stuff is ridiculous. A Christmas tree sitting among a holiday display of world religions is not truly different from a holiday tree celebrated with a Christian carol or two. In neither case is the state endorsing Christianity. It is only observing the holiday season.

So, let’s have the 2,000 LED lights glowing on this year’s balsam in the state capitol illuminate our holiday season. We could all use a little good will towards men (and women).