When the War on Christmas Goes Too Far…

This is the Christmas tree in The Willows senior apartment building complex in Newhall, California:

(Andy Holzman)

The sign says “Please save our tree” because someone in upper management told them they weren’t allowed to have it because it was a religious symbol.

On Tuesday, Tarzana-based JB Partners Group Inc. sent a memo to staff at The Willows senior apartment building demanding they take down Christmas trees and menorahs in communal areas.

“We’re all angry. We want that tree,” said Fern Scheel, who has lived at the complex for nearly two years. “Where’s our freedom? This is ridiculous.”

The Willows staff and JB Property supervisor Wethanie Law declined to comment.


The tree isn’t a problem. It’s even less of a problem when another religious symbol is sitting alongside it. If a statue of Jesus shows up in the complex’s common area with a cross in one hand and a Bible in the other, we’ll have a talk about what’s an inappropriate promotion of religion. If someone’s religious symbol is denied placement in the area, we’ll have that talk, too. (Though it’s private property, from what I can gather, so it’s really not something anyone could sue over.)

Just to be clear, this wasn’t the Freedom From Religion Foundation sending a letter of complaint. This wasn’t a government organization telling the building owners to take down the tree. This appears to be an over-the-top decision made by someone in building management.

We don’t actually know what happened, though, because the company the manages the property, JB Partners, won’t comment on the issue.

In any case, 75 residents gathered together in protest to save the tree:

Max Greenis who has lived at the complex for a year with his wife, Bonnie, said he’s considering withholding his rent in protest of what he calls an abomination of the holiday tradition.

“I’ve got grandkids and they come here and now they’ll ask, `Grandpa, where’s the Christmas tree?’ Then I’ll have to explain that someone said we couldn’t have one. What kind of message is that sending to the kids?” Greenis asked.

After the protest — really more of a gathering over coffee and dougnuts to angrily air their concerns — some residents got so riled that they began taking the tree apart themselves. Some even took parts of the artificial tree back to their apartments in defiance.

Good for them; even they know this is ridiculous.

***Update***: And just like that, the seniors have saved the day :)

But employees of JB Partners Group Inc., which manages The Willows, insisted Thursday there was no prohibition on Christmas trees or menorahs in communal areas.

“We think it was someone who heard something, and that someone told someone else and that person then told everybody,” said Monica Morones, from JB Partners Group, Inc.

“The phones have been ringing all day,” she said. “I just received a call from someone who said it was a constitutional right for them to have the tree. I said they were right. We place our residents first.”

Willows managers planned a party Thursday evening, so that residents could decorate the newly installed tree. A menorah was placed on a table while Christmas garland was also placed in the community room.

“We got our tree back and we’re happy, but I’m upset we had to go through all this,” said Dora Hadnot. “It’s Christmas. A tree means Christmas. It’s the season of giving and it’s about showing kindness to one another.”

“We probably won’t be allowed to sing Christmas carols,” another resident said.

“If not, that’ll be our next fight,” [Marjorie] Lenenberg said.

(Thanks to Will for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QX5RHMTHB3WPWZYMSEO3NYPDFA Michael

    This sounds like a group of senior citizens nattering to each other and blowing something out of proportion.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Let us play the telephone game.

  • Baal

     My minor dyslexia (flipped a few words out of order) made your comment initially quite interesting.  And then less so when I read it as you intended it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisbrock.nc Chris Brock

    I think it would be good PR for FFRF to send a letter of support for the seniors.  I mean it sounds like it’s private property, so I don’t think FFRF could sue the property owners, but a quick letter to educate them on why this is a ridiculous policy would be nice.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I guess I just don’t see a Christmas tree as a religious symbol, even though people CALL it a Christmas tree. I mean, someone makes snowman cookies, and everyone calls them Christmas cookies. Someone wears an ugly sweater with a Santa teddy bear on it, and everyone calls it a Christmas sweater. But, neither of these are actual religious symbols.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    That made me laugh way too hard.

  • http://goddoesnt.blogspot.com/ James A. Lindsay

    I really don’t mean to put this as if it is self-promotion, but I think it’s relatively important to see the “War on Christmas” thing clearly for what it is. Here, we see victims of this “war,” not combatants. The war is being fought by the right-wing media empire because it is very politically useful to keep people (here: social conservatives) anxious about their core values. I think this is almost the entire cloth of the “war on Christmas.” I wrote it on my blog, so the link here is to that. Pardon me if that’s not appropriate.

  • MM

    Agree that a tree isn’t a religious symbol and the it should be allowed, but that doesn’t mean the seniors weren’t being a tad dramatic about the whole thing:

     –“I’ve got grandkids and they come here and now they’ll ask, `Grandpa,
    where’s the Christmas tree?’ Then I’ll have to explain that someone said
    we couldn’t have one. What kind of message is that sending to the
    kids?” Greenis asked.–

    Yes, I’m sure they’ll be scarred for life because the lobby at Pop-Pop’s apartment complex didn’t have a tree.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Good to read an atheist perspective on this. I had heard about this issue with the Christmas tree at that apartment, and it seemed absurd to me to say that it’s not allowed. But I wasn’t sure if there was something I was missing because I’m a Christian and it’s not obvious to me what the alternate perspective is on issues about religious symbols in public.

  • http://cryofly.myopenid.com/ anuran

    “Save the tree”? You already cut the tree and it is dead. Good news is that these pines are often grown just for this charade. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

    The only thing atheists care about (and have a legal leg for) are when the government promotes one religion over others. Nativity in your yard? Fine. At your business? Have fun! At town hall? No. It’s not really hard, and not even that restrictive.

  • Question Everything

    I find it amazing that even after it’s basically been settled, and determined that it was miscommunications or maybe rumors, they’re still spreading more rumors, or making them up on the spot!  No wonder they thought they’d lose their tree, someone mentioned it and it became fact.

    I’m upset they went through that, too!  It’s stupid and pointless.  But that shouldn’t lead them to think that maybe carols are next, it should lead them to think maybe next time they hear a rumor, they should put some more research into it before accepting it as true.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    Met you at the xylophone frame?

  • Octoberfurst

     I can’t imagine why the manager thought that a Christmas tree was a religious symbol. To whom? Druids?  There is nothing even religious about the ornaments on the tree for crying out loud.  And besides the apt is private property so there is no church/State conflict.  My only conclusion is that the manager is a moron.

  • jdm8

    “We probably won’t be allowed to sing Christmas carols,” another resident said.“If not, that’ll be our next fight,” [Marjorie] Lenenberg said.”

    …and they learned NOTHING from their previous “fight”.

  • Patrick O”Driscoll

    I’m amused ! When I was young , 60 or so years ago  , my father ( Staunch Catholic ) refused to allow a Christmas tree in our house . He said it was “A Pagan Symbol “….

  • DR

    There is no war on Christmas. You shouldn’t use the term except in derision; otherwise, you give credence to an absurd concept.

  • Jenny

    Having had multiple relatives live in Senior homes, let me tell you, these buildings are not like community centers, they are the permanent homes of the citizens living there. They have to live in those buildings day in and day out. The public communal areas are the living rooms of these people. Their personal rooms are often small, too small for a Christmas tree, or to have more than a couple of family members visit.

    My family, every Christmas, would pay a rental fee for the community rooms in the basement so that we could throw a Christmas party, my aunts and uncles, all their spouses and kids, mom and all the cousins, my sister, sometimes my relatives from the other side of the family, we’d have a big meal, and have a Christmas tree and all the kids. My Uncle would dress up as Santa Clause, inevitably, and the kids would have all their gifts open.

    There was nothing religious about it. This was the only time we could all get together and celebrate with our Grandparents.

    This isn’t about Religious icons in a public area. Its about personal freedom for the elderly, because even though they aren’t all related to each other, its their HOME and they should have the right to decide what to do with it.

  • Jason

     Seems to me that they got all worked up precisely because they viewed their frustration as a part of the larger “war on Christmas.”

    Clearly the Christmas tree traditionally has religious associations, but symbols and associations change. I think the Christmas tree is a great secular symbol now and Atheists should embrace it. Hmm? What could we put on top instead of an angel?

  • Annaigaw

    Put a star on top – they exist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.dillahunty Matt Dillahunty

    And, as a reminder, Christmas trees aren’t Christian. There are two Christmases, the religious one and the secular one.

    The decorated tree that became the Xmas tree has *never* been a part of Christianity, is prohibited in many Christian denominations (in part due to an odd interpretation of a passage in Jeremiah) and hasn’t been a part of any religion any significant way for centuries.

    When people claim or imply that Christmas Trees are religious (which Hemant does here: “The tree isn’t a problem. It’s even less of a problem when another religious symbol is sitting alongside it.”) it merely spreads misinformation and pointlessly exacerbates the problems.

  • Annaiagaw

    Seems like Grandma and Grandpa are watching too much Fox News again. Clearly this was an unfounded rumor that spread like wildfire in a place that is probably a hotbed of gossip. They’ve already moved on to a new conspiracy theory about Christmas carols.

  • Jon Peterson
  • Baal

    Think ‘government’ and not ‘public’.  It makes the analysis easy.  Schools are government.  Parks are government (usually).  Libraries are government.  Shopping mall is public.  Your lawn is private.  From the symbol part, if it’s a sectarian (i.e. christian) symbol, it can’t be on the government’s property.

    As noted here, most atheists are willing to grant that a xmas tree (despite the name) is not necessarily christian the same way a creche is.  The nursing home is privately owned – even if it has a lobby open to the public and even though it gets a subsidy from the government (probably).  It’s still not a governmental service (currently but our system in the US is borked) and not government property.  They  could have totally sectarian stuff up and we’d pretty much not complain.

  • David Starner

    Precisely, Matt. It also doesn’t help when you have state officials like Governor Chafee of Rhode Island insisting that calling it a “holiday tree” is necessary to avoid entanglement of state and church.

    The Supreme Court has ruled numerous times that the Christmas tree is a secular symbol, and that even nativity scenes are legal on government property if there are secular seasonal symbols alongside it, which would amount to a “sufficient secular purpose” overall.

    As for your comment that there are “two Christmases”, I will add that a secular person’s Christmas can also incorporate religious elements, such as an angel on the tree or religious Christmas carols, the latter of which I and other prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and singer Annie Lennox enjoy immensely as part of the holiday. 

    So I wouldn’t really say there are “two” Christmases, but rather that Christmas is one holiday with pagan, Christian, secular and commercial elements.

  • the moother

    hahahaha… you yanks are always good for a larf…

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Cool, thanks for explaining this. Is this because having religious symbols on government property is like the government “endorsing” a particular religion?

  • Art_Vandelay

    That’s actually not true about Chaffee. He doesn’t insist on calling it a holiday tree for separation issues. He calls it a holiday tree because that’s what the last governor and the one before him called it. It’s just that the Bishop wasn’t writing editorials in the paper about it, sending everyone into a tizzy because that governor had the same stance as the RCC towards fetuses and homosexuals.

  • Bdole

    “‘We think it was someone who heard something, and that someone told someone else and that person then told everybody,’ said Monica Morones, from JB Partners Group, Inc.”

    Does anyone fact-check before going off half-cocked?

  • ReadsInTrees

    Yes, if that government only allows religious symbols from certain religious views. They have to allow ALL symbols, or NONE.  I think most of us here prefer it to be none, and leave our public parks, etc free of religious clutter…but we’ll settle for the “all views” option if that’s the only way we can get everyone treated equally. I for one do not see a Christmas tree as a religious symbol because it has no religious meaning beyond the name. It’s probably more correct for a government body to call it a “holiday tree” in order to be inclusive to all, but the tree itself is not a violation. 

    It is a common misconception that groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation are trying to “ban Christmas” or are offended by religious displays. We fully support everyone’s right to put Nativity scenes on their front lawns, on their church lawns, at businesses….just not on government property. We’re not (usually) offended by religious displays, we’re just offended by the government endorsing specific religious views.

    Also, I have to say that I appreciate you coming here and clarifying what’s going on. So many other people just make the aforementioned assumptions and then start calling names and spreading hatred. Thank you for taking the time to learn the real story!

  • ReadsInTrees

    Stars, snowflakes…we always used a “the spike” on top of our family tree, which was just a vintage glass ball thing with a spike coming out of the top. Like this: 


  • ReadsInTrees

    Whoa, I read the same thing initially.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    British people have a tradition of putting fairies on top of the tree, I think.

    When I was little, my family put a wreath or a glittery bow on top. Angels and stars are fine with me, though. You don’t have to think angels are real to enjoy depictions of them.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    That’s a good idea! They might be less likely believe whatever Fox News says about the “War on Christmas” if they have actual contact with atheists who support their right to their tree.

  • WoodwindsRock

    Christmas trees aren’t even a Christian symbol. They’re a tradition taken (or assimilated?) from ancient Pagan traditions. Ones which I doubt very many people follow nowadays.

    Really, all we need to know is that these Pagan traditions were celebrating the winter solstice, and since the pine tree is an evergreen tree, there is no better way to celebrate. It is a sign of life when the days are at their shortest. Even though it had religious roots, those roots are lost nowadays. There’s no reason to associate Christmas trees with the Christian aspect of Christmas.

  • Baal

    Yes, exactly.

  • Ophiuroidea
  • Blacksheep

    Yup. This is where it’s headed! Wonderful how comforting “free” thinking can be for people at Christmas time.

  • Blacksheep

    Why are you backing down on this one, because they’re old?

  • Jim Conaway

    Guess you missed the part about it being private property…right? Reread carefully, and for content.

  • Glasofruix

     You should think more, or at least read the article before you outstupid yourself.

  • NotTHATguest

    We’ve put a hat on top of our tree. We change hats every year.

  • Coyotenose

     1. Not a religious symbol.

    2. Not public property.

    Jesus, is this somehow DIFFICULT?

  • Coyotenose

     This. A Christmas tree is not a religious symbol. The whole thing is nonsensical on every level.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Huh? A Christmas tree isn’t a religious symbol, and even if it was, this retirement home is private property. There’s no issue here. They can put up a big “Happy Birthday, Jesus” banner for all I care.

    Their age is also irrelevant, by the way. If a bunch of senior citizens tried to put a nativity scene in front of city hall or the local public elementary school, I’d have no problem going after them for that.

  • Coyotenose

    Not a cephalopod, but you get points for the tentaclelike appendages!

  • Coyotenose

     Ah dammit, now I can’t unsee it. Thanks a LOT.

  • Coyotenose

     Reading am hard, LOLrite?

    Also honesty, apparently. Dishonest git.

  • Blacksheep

    I have read and fully understand the implications of the article. The very notion that one group can seek to ban the free expression of another is not right. If you read between the lines you’ll see that the real story is the over reaction by the seniors based on fear of having a beloved tradition removed – a fear that would not have existed in years past. That fear, although in this case unfounded, is coming from someplace.

  • Blacksheep

    Thanks Coyote. I’ll treat your opinions with respect anyway.

  • Willy Occam

     Get your cat the styrofoam crane?

  • Blacksheep

    Exactly! So how did the management company develop such a fearful, hair-trigger response that they are even fearful of non-religious Christmas symbols? 

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Because of idiocy like the fake “War on Christmas,”  which is perpetuated by right-wingers who love to pretend that they and their precious holiday are under attack.

    Of course, you’re going to blame us, when we had nothing to do with it and no one (anywhere) is trying to remove Christmas trees. Why don’t you blame the people at Fox News for stirring up hysteria and promoting misformation about separation of church and state?

  • Semipermeable

    Out of their own ignorance of the issue? It is very simple. A government cannot use it’s power and position to impose worship and reverence on the unwilling, be they a particular sect of Christianity, Muslim, or atheist. Private citizens all have their individual freedoms. I will speak passionately in favor of the rights of a religious group to worship as they please as long as they do not harm or entrap others. 

    It is funny how you try to pin the blame on us when this article and many posts have actually been in support of the seniors. 

  • Alajackd

    Bullying on little old ladies now, eh? Ouch! That CAN’T be good for the ole friendly cause.. BWAAAHAHAHAA

  • Deven Kale

     Giant cat of strife in the rain?

  • Deven Kale

     And that place? Fox “news” channel.

  • Deven Kale

     The management company had nothing to do with it. It was all just a rumor which started with the residents and got blown up into them fighting to take back the tree that was never taken away in the first place. In fact, it would’ve stayed exactly where it was had the residents not taken it down themselves. Read the story again, I think you may have missed the update.

  • Deven Kale

     What are you going on about? I see no bullying here except for comments like yours and blacksheeps trying to put the blame for this on we atheists.

  • Blacksheep

    I have read it, I think you’re missing my point.

  • Blacksheep

    No, Fox is just another source of dumbed-down overreaction.

  • Duke OfOmnium

    After they took the tree, they’d take the hoo pudding.  They’d take the roast beast!

  • Marella

     No need to be upset, it’s probably the most excitement they’ve had all year. That’s how this sort of thing happens in the first place; everyone sitting round bored out of their minds stewing on imaginary problems. Someone should do them a favour and send a letter telling them that carols are banned and so is Xmas cake, they’ll have more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Thanks guys, I wasn’t planning on SLEEPING any time soon…

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty


  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    And here I’d thought Christians were all for letting private businesses do whatever they privately decide to do. They ought to be supporting this business’s decision not to allow a holiday tree on its premises.

  • Jason

     I think you’re somewhat confusing the history of the Christmas tree with current associations (perhaps like confusing the etymology of a word with its current usage). I agree that a Christmas tree doesn’t have to be religious, but for many people today it is. I just think the best way forward is for Atheists to embrace it along side Christians. 

  • RobertoTheChi

    How about because it is on private property. Not hard to figure that out if you read the post…

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Your point seems to be that it’s somehow our fault, LOL.

  • Randy

    Private or not, a common area is not a suitable place for a Christmas tree.   This isn’t a war on Christmas.  It’s a war by Christmas, to insert itself everywhere, no matter what.

  • John

     Technically it is a religious symbol, but not of Christianity :P

  • Deven Kale

    No, I get your point. You’re saying that the management company over-reacted to all the lawsuits put forward by atheist groups like the FFRF and thought they’d rather just not have the tree there so they don’t get threatened with a lawsuit. Is that about right?

    The problem is that your point is moot, because the management company had nothing to do with it. To quote them, again, “But employees of JB Partners Group Inc., which manages The Willows, insisted Thursday there was no prohibition on Christmas trees or menorahs in communal areas. ‘We think it was someone who heard something, and that someone told someone else and that person then told everybody.‘” (emphasis mine)

    It was a rumor, started by someone inside the facility which got blown out of proportion. The management company admits there was no memo prohibiting Christmas trees, and can only make a guess as to how the rumor started.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    It’s up to the people who own the property. If they think it’s suitable, then it is.

  • Isilzha

    And I bet you’re one of the first people who would scream about the business/property owner’s rights if the issue was the other way.

  • Isilzha

    I’m confused.  If the business owner had put up the tree and the residents had been primarily Jewish and found the tree objectionable, then the xians would be screaming about the business owner’s rights. 

    However, if the business owner doesn’t allow a tree then the xians scream about the resident’s rights.

  • Deven Kale

    The reason I state that Fox “news” is the primary source of this type of over-reaction is that they know the issues, they know it’s about separation of Church and State and therefore only about Government property. But that’s not how they report on it. They’re reporting that it’s a “War on Christmas” by the hateful lefties.

    They’re actually trying to create this exact type of misunderstanding among their viewers. They want people to be afraid that we evil atheists and godless liberals are trying to abolish every trace of Christmas from the country. If it weren’t for the spin that Fox “News” Channel is putting on these issues, I’m very confident (95% sure) that this would have never happened.

    They’re not just “a source of dumbed-down overreaction.” I’m rather certain that they’re the primary source of it.

  • Isilzha

    But why do the rights of the people who want the xmas tree displayed trump the rights of those who don’t want it?

    And what about the rights of the business owner?  The xians are some of the first people who would get all in a tizzy over them if the owner wanted to display a tree in a place where most of the residents didn’t celebrate xmas (jewish, hindu, muslim, jehovah’s witness, etc).

    I’m not going to argue about wheter the xmas tree is a religious symbol or not since most xians seem to see it as one. 

  • Deven Kale

     Nothing to be confused about. It’s just another one of those inconsistencies brought on by the Christian persecution complex.

  • Alajackd

     Blah blah blah… You can run but you can’t hide. The true nature of the atheist left is very apparent and this is yet another shining example of your war on Christianity.. Scrooge….

  • Isilzha

     Still, many xians do see it as a religious symbol even if it really isn’t.

  • Deven Kale

     Scrooge? Me, a Scrooge? You don’t know me at all! All you know is that I comment regularly on an atheist blog, and you may not even know that! You may not like this but, if we were only to judge a person based on some comments they’ve made on a blog, it is you who should be worried.

    I’ve done nothing but support the rights of these people to have their tree, have I not? I have said nothing stating that I think they should have it taken away. Have a look for yourself, in no place do I say anything of the sort. IIRC, the only thing I’ve really said here is that I believe it’s the fault of Fox “News” and defend myself and other atheists from being blamed for something which is quite evidently not our doing.

    Now compare my behavior to yours. You’re entire history on this blog is nothing but insults. Nothing. Remember this gem: “Why do you care? Aren’t you weirdos too busy attending Star Trek conventions anyway?” Or this one: “What they were doing was not illegal you stupid dipshit. Christians,
    being Christians, on a University campus is perfectly legal. It’s only
    to quell sue happy trolls like yourself that Christians even give a
    shit. Christians will still pray dickwad. Don’t you have a Star Trek
    convention to attend? Prosper for life trekker.”

    You just make stuff up and insult people to insult them. At least when I insult, I have standing to do so. I don’t like to sugar-coat things, it’s one of my weaknesses. If I think a person is being an idiot or a jerk based on something they say, I tend to just say so. And you, I must say, come across as quite the jerk. If either one of us is likely to be a Scrooge, the evidence is far more in favor of you than myself.

  • Isilzha

     Why would it be a good idea for FFRF to send a letter of support to the business owner?  Does the business owner not have any rights?  I’m not asking if it’s a good business practice for the owner of an apartment complex to prohibit xmas trees; I’m wanting to know what rights the owner has for setting policy for displays and decorations in public areas.

    Remember, the owner also has to take into consideration everyone’s preference, not just the people who want the xmas trees.

  • Isilzha

    What if the residents wanted to put up a sign that said “allahu akbar” and other residents objected?

    What if the owner wanted to put up the same sign and the resident’s objected?

  • Chakolate

    So this was all a rumor?  A bunch of gossipy geezers panicked themselves?  Sheesh!

  • Chakolate

    Very true.  And you cannot expect a rumor to go any faster anywhere than at a senior citizen home.  So much excitement!  Such fun!

  • Alajackd

    “Knowing” you is not the issue at hand,  nor do I have an ounce of desire to know you. The fact remains this IS the atheist agenda – to wage war on Christians, be them young, old, sick or poor. 

  • allein

    I like that! I have a fancy glittery gold star my mom gave me one year (we’ve gotten at least one ornament every year of our lives), and also an angel holding a light (she plugs into the light string), and my brother and parents have other toppers. I tend to change them up each year (I don’t have a tree of my own; we always go over one night in December to decorate my parents’ living room).

  • Deven Kale

     Private citizens displaying their own beliefs/opinions on private property, as is their right. We (as in the general public, not just atheists) could all guess at their reasoning and criticize them based upon what we know of the situation, but we have no right to force them to change or remove it. How those who live there decide to deal with it is for them to determine, not us.

  • Deven Kale

     That’s a rather broad brush you’re painting with there. And the image you’re creating is therefore not really going to be too realistic. There is no single, organized, “atheist agenda.” Some of us mainly want atheism to be less of a stigma (myself included). Others care more about separation of church and state. Still others don’t care either way and just want to live their lives. The percentage of atheists who really wish to “wage war on Christians” isn’t actually all that large, and your saying that it’s the de facto “atheist agenda” just reveals you to be nothing more than a sad little angry (scared?) bigot, and I pity you.

  • Helanna

    I still like the term holiday tree. 

    I mean, yes, lots and lots of people celebrate a secular Christmas, but right now in our society, if you say ‘Christmas’ most people are going to assume you’re talking about the Christian holiday, not the secular one. So while I’m hardly going to kick up a fuss about it, and I do refer to my tree as a Christmas tree, I still think holiday trees can have a place. 

  • Alajackd

    Ahhh yes, when all else fails, simply name-call me a bigot. The only bigotry going on here is that of atheists denying the freedom of Christians their right to be Christians. Discrimination against an enormous social group.

  • Isilzha

    You can be xians all you want.  Just keep it out of government and stop expecting everyone else to follow your religion too.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty


    You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means…

  • Isilzha

    The question is who owns that area, the residents or the property owner and who can decide what’s displayed there? 

  • Deven Kale

    Bigot: a person who is onstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

    I called you a sad little angry (scared?) bigot because you’re acting like one. Now if you’re willing to accept that there is no “atheist agenda” and that there really aren’t that many of us that act the way you claim we all do, then maybe I’m wrong. So far, I see no evidence of that. It’s up to you to prove your not a bigot now, I think your statements tend to speak for themselves though.

    And I think it’s hilarious that you, of all people, criticize me for name calling. Pot, meet Kettle. At least I have a rational basis for mine.

    Edit: Darn cut and paste re-formatting on submission…

  • Deven Kale

     Same answer.

  • Isilzha

    You don’t think this is an issue that atheists could ever face either as a resident or business owner? 

  • Deven Kale

     Doesn’t matter if it’s atheists, Jews, Episcopalians or Rastafarians. If it’s on private property, it’s a private issue.

  • Isilzha

     So, atheists aren’t private citizens too?  I’m confused.  I think this is worth a discussion because it may be something that some of us may face.  There are still rights at issue here.

    We’re not talking about what the residents can do in/on their private apartments.  The discussion is about the communal area of the complex.  That makes it a bit more murky than just saying it’s a private issue.  So, does the owner have the last say to set policy or what?

  • Deven Kale

    I would think of it like a business, with the residents as customers. Ultimately it’s the management who decides on policy issues, but if enough of the residents have complaints they’ll leave. It’s a balancing act between the two groups, just like any other business.

  • Deven Kale

     You could even think of their rooms as private lockers. Anything they want within the rooms, but outside of that room there are stricter guidelines as determined by the management.

  • Coyotenose

     Yeahyeahyeah :P I understand the point, though I’ll argue that this is an example of a symbol that actually has been watered down to the point that it can be assumed to be secular.

  • Coyotenose

     Perception is important. It’s worthwhile to challenge that idea and get them to reconsider the assumption.

  • Coyotenose

    A few years ago in a local newspaper, a conservative Christian wrote a letter that denounced Christmas as a holiday with completely pagan roots that should, as observed, not be a part of Christianity. A pseudoconservative columnist called him a “liberal” for criticizing Christmas. These people aren’t rational thinkers. They’re angry, fearful reactionaries who sublimate their bigotry into this sort of nonsense. Anything they don’t like is automatically done by all members of the “Out” group, including things overtly and admittedly done by members of the “In” group.

  • Coyotenose

     Ohhh, I like! Wonder if I can borrow my friend’s Jayne Cobb’s Mom hat that I gave him last year.

  • Coyotenose

     We used to have one of those also. What the hell are those things?

    “Y’know what’s better than a Christmas tree? A Christmas tree that’s also a SPEAR!”

  • Coyotenose

     Good questions, by the way.  You’ll find no shortage of people on forums who enjoy explaining their positions, and this is a great way to approach them.

  • Coyotenose

     FOX is documented as having originated the modern “War on Christmas” debate fearmongering.

  • Coyotenose

     Save it. You were snidely* trying to pin the consequences of political lies and the resulting gossip and reactionary fear on groups fighting for yours and everyone else’s Constitutional rights. There’s nothing to respect in that opinion.

    *Thus giving the lie to your attempt to claim the high ground now, hypocrite.

  • RobMcCune

    A catholic who dislikes pagan imagery, I’d love to see how he reacts to just about any catholic ritual.

  • Coyotenose

     Left-wing politics has its issues and its horrifically stupid fringes, but the Right Wing now survives entirely on the principle of fear.

    Which is not coincidentally how a state of war is best maintained.

  • Coyotenose

    Check out his other posts. The shallow-minded dimwit is overtly trolling. I’m the last person to tell someone to not respond to them, but please consider also flagging the troll posts.

  • Deven Kale

     Oh that’s very obvious. I just have a lot of fun finding the trolls and driving them out. I’ve been doing it for a while now in a few different places. I call it Troll Hunting. :D

  • ReadsInTrees

    I think the spike is to deter any angels that might try to hand on the tree. Back off, hussies!

  • ReadsInTrees

    I don’t care if they think it’s a religious symbol. We don’t need to remove everything that misinformed people think is a religious symbol. I mean, some people think that the stars on an American flag are religious because they think stars are a Christian thing (because of the star of Bethlehem). I guess it IS a religious symbol, a way….the five pointed pentacle, another pagan symbol.

  • ReadsInTrees

    Exactly. Five pointed pentacles were a pagan religious symbols….but a star has been secularized so far that we even have fifty on our flag.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I’m pretty sure that if this is a privately owned business, he can put up whatever he wants in public spaces. There is no grounds to sue here, so why are people even mentioning that?

  • ReadsInTrees

    That’s all just a landlord/tenant dispute between them. If it’s private property, there is no reason for FRFF to get involved at all. 

  • nakedanthropologist

    A man walks down the street in a hat like that, and people know he’s not afraid of anything.

  • Isilzha

    Actually, religious displays in common areas may violate fair housing laws.  A religious display in a common area could be seen as making a state of preference for that religion(s) which would violate the Act.  I’m still trying to determine how it may fit.

  • nakedanthropologist

    And the last can of hoo-hash….

  • ReadsInTrees

    I think fair housing laws are just saying that you cannot discriminate against someone trying to find housing. Like, you can’t NOT rent to this person because they’re black or gay or Jewish. I don’t see anywhere that says that the business owner can’t decorate his own property the way he likes.
    In any case…it’s not applicable here because a tree is not a religious symbol, AND no one was even trying to get this tree removed. It was just people being paranoid.

  • Isilzha

    From what I’ve been reading the issue of religious displays in an apartment or other housing unit is a bit different because of the Fair Housing Act which prohibits religious discrimination.

    (not the best article and I think there’s an error in what they list as rule #2, but it’s a start and outlines some of the problems surrounding religious displays)

  • Isilzha

    It does not seem the owner of a property for housing can use religious symbols to decorate as that may show to prospective tenants the property has a preference for people of a certain religion. 

    However, decorated trees are deemed secular if it’s called a “holiday tree”.

  • Alajackd

    Wow that definition describes you and the other bigots on this blog perfectly. The burden of proof lies on you to prove otherwise. Your whole cause is founded in bigotry. Hugo Black, the atheist democratic KKK leader is your ally in your war on Christians. This entire crapblog propagates bigotry. Just read other’s comments of hatred and discrimination of Christians.

  • Antinomian

    Do your parents know you’re on the internet? Aren’t you supposed to be cleaning your room and disposing of that pile of crusty kleenex between your bed and the wall?

  • Ophiuroidea
  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Like others have said, it’s a private issue. It has nothing to do with separation of church and state.

  • Duke OfOmnium

    But they’d be seen by Cindy Loo Hoo, who was no more than eighty-two

  • GmaVidon

    Our family tree is topped with Yoda. Our ornaments are a mixture of all of our kids’s interests: spongebob, princesses, mario bros., and a motley assortment of handmade crafts :) Super fun. So much fun that we have two now :)

  • Artor

    The property owner owns the lobby and sets the rules there. Landlord/tenant law governs what goes on inside the rooms, and tenants have alot more enumerated rights there. It’s completely up to the owner/management to dictate what goes up in the lobby, but if they want to keep their tenants, they’ll need to be accommodating.

  • Artor

    The pentagram is a pagan symbol now, but I don’t think it was religious historically. It’s use on the flag predates it’s use as a religious symbol.

  • Isilzha

     Actually, it may also be an issue of Fair Housing. 

  • Deven Kale

     Doesn’t look that sharp. I would think it would encourage them to come down. Well, the female ones, at least…

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    The pentacle, at one point, was even used in Christianity, representing the wounds of Christ. (Hands, feet, crown of thorns.)

  • Deven Kale

     Actually I’m pretty open-minded, as are most (not all) of the other people who regularly comment here. We’re willing to look at new information and, if it’s good information with solid evidenciary support, change our views accordingly. I’ve done this quite a few times in the comment threads of other posts, and I’ve seen pretty much every other name that I know well do the same. That doesn’t really fit the definition too well.

    There are a few regulars that are outliers, but as long as they’re not constantly causing problems it’s no big deal. Then there’s always the inevitable people who roll in (on both sides) that just vomit bigotry all over the place, such as yourself, which we have to call out or flag.

    I’m even open to changing my mind about religion. I still have doubts about the non-belief of gods on occasion, so I start looking for evidence for their existence. I’ve not once found anything other than fancy rhetorical games and the intellectual masturbation that most call philosophy. None of this is evidence, it’s just flowery prose at the very best. In the unlikely event that I ever do find actual evidence of a god, then I’ll believe it, but not before. That does not make me, or any of the other atheists here who profess the same, a bigot.

    You, however, keep insisting on believing that all atheists are anti-theists, and are waging a war on Christianity and Christmas, in spite of the fact that you’ve been told numerous times it’s untrue. You act in a very angry and hateful manner towards an entire group of people because you obstinately refuse to accept that they aren’t all what you think they are. The very definition of bigotry.

  • Godlesspanther

    They use a special dictionary. 

    Persecution — the act of refusing to mindlessly agree with everything that a person says. 

  • fuzzwald

    These people pay big bucks to live there. And it’s their home. They should have a Christmas tree in the commons. If someone who lives there wants to put a Jewish or Islam symbol along side it, more power to them.