R.I. Gov. Calls Statehouse Display 'Holiday' Tree, Upsets Christian Tree Farmer

A Rhode Island Christmas tree farmer is considering taking the Statehouse tree back after the governor chose to call it a “holiday tree” for the Dec. 6 lighting.

John Tim Leyden, tree farmer and owner of Big John Leyden’s Christmas Tree Farm, takes pride in providing customers locally-grown Christmas trees like the Blue Spruce he recently donated to the Rhode Island Statehouse.

He now has doubts about his donation since Gov. Lincoln Chafee has begun referring to the tree as a holiday tree. Leyden, a Christian, said he wants to keep “Christ” in Christmas.

“I think it important to maintain our traditions, to maintain our holidays and to wish everyone a merry Christmas,” he told The Christian Post.

Leyden said that he has donated the last six or seven trees to the state. But now he’s “thinking seriously about taking the tree back.”

Chafee has defended his decision, telling The Associated Press that the holiday reference is keeping with the state’s founding by 1636 religious dissident Rodger Williams who reportedly created the state to be a “haven for tolerance” and the separation of church and state.

But State Rep. Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) told Fox News Chafee’s actions are in violation of legislature. In January, the state legislature passed a resolution that pledged to refer to the customary state tree as a Christmas tree. Chaffee’s decision, she said, flies in the face of state lawmakers.

“He is refusing to honor what’s passed in the House of Representatives,” Costa said.

Polls show that the governor’s position flies in the face of most Americans.

A December 2010 Rasmussen poll shows that 69 percent of Americans prefer “merry Christmas” over “happy holidays.” Similarly, a Pew survey shows that 60 percent that stores and businesses utilize the greeting “merry Christmas” against greetings such as “happy holiday” and “season’s greetings.”

Additionally, 83 percent said displays of Christmas symbols should be allowed in public places.

R.I. Tree farmer Leyden said he doesn’t believe people are offended by Christmas trees either.

“Celebrating with a Christmas tree has been going on for decades,” he reasoned.

Leyden told CP he is not 100 percent set on taking back the Statehouse tree. He is, however, donating a second tree to state Rep. Costa who plans to hold a Christmas tree lighting in her Statehouse office on the same day as the state tree lighting.

"Anybody that wants to go see a holiday tree can do so, but I will be decorating a Christmas tree," Costa told AP.

She also plans to collect canned goods.

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