The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly passed a resolution Tuesday labeling the evergreen in the Capitol rotunda a “Christmas Tree,” four days after the Democratic governor said he was renaming it a “Holiday Tree” and decorating it with science-themed ornaments.
The resolution passed, 64-30, with 60 Republicans and four Democrats joining together to support it. All the “no” votes came from Democrats. It now moves to the Senate, which must pass it for it to have power. It does not require the signature of Gov. Tony Evers, the Journal Sentinel reported.
The tree itself is two stories tall.
“It is a Christmas tree. Everyone knows it’s a Christmas tree. Changing the name of the Christmas tree to anything else would be a political game,” said Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, a Republican. “And that's what the governor did when he renamed it.”
The resolution says the state “respects all religious and cultural customs and is desirous of properly naming the publicly-displayed symbols of our state's diverse holiday traditions out of respect for all traditions.”
“The decorated tree has been on display in the Capitol rotunda annually during the Christmas holiday season since 1916 and has been traditionally referred to as a ‘Christmas tree,’” the resolution says. “... The Wisconsin legislature wishes to continue this tradition and join numerous other states and public institutions and millions of American families in celebrating the Christmas holiday season with a Christmas tree.”
The resolution concludes: “The decorated tree annually displayed in the Capitol rotunda during the Christmas holiday season shall be known as the Wisconsin State Christmas Tree.”
On Friday, Evers announced he would call the tree a “Holiday Tree” and have it decorated with science-related ornaments made by schoolchildren as part of a “Celebrate Science” theme. The previous governor, Republican Scott Walker, had named it a “Christmas Tree” in 2011, although it was called a Holiday Tree for the previous 25 years, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Evers told WTMJ he renamed the tree to make it more inclusive.
“It's a holiday season for a whole bunch of people in the state of Wisconsin, even those that aren't part of the Christian faith. I think it's a more inclusive thing,” Evers said. “I know a lot of people love to have that debate, and I think it's a good debate to have.”
The legislature passed the Christmas tree resolution the same day it passed a resolution recognizing Thanksgiving week as National Bible Week. That resolution passed, 86-9. It notes that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first declared National Bible Week in 1941.
“Bible reading has been a great encouragement and comfort for many people throughout our state's history and has contributed to the molding of the spiritual, moral, and social fiber of our citizenry,” the resolution says.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Pexels/Oleg Magni
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.