MADISON (WKOW) — One of the biggest debates happening at the state capitol isn’t about public policy or a new bill, it’s about the tree displayed in the rotunda every year.
On Friday, Governor Tony Evers announced he will be calling the tree a “holiday tree,” a tradition at the capitol for decades until 2011 when former Governor Scott Walker called it a “Christmas tree.”
For 25 years prior to Walker, Republican and Democratic governors have called it a “holiday” tree, but Evers changesparked a public debate and lawmakers haven’t heard the end of it.
A spokeswoman for Evers office explained the change, saying the administration wanted to remain inclusive in naming rights instead of endorsing religion.
“To make a super small segment of people who are easily offended seem to be the only ones Tony Evers is listening too,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). “I thought it was a fight not necessary to have.”
In 2011 after Walker renamed the “Christmas” tree some groups found it offensive igniting a debate on religious freedoms.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group, said the name offended non-religious people and it was a government endorsement of Christianity.
Regardless of what to call it, both sides of the aisle find the argument being blown out of proportion.
“It’s a Christmas tree… to be clear this again a distraction that people kind of get wrapped up into it and I certainly recognized the games being played, but the less time we spend on these things the better,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh).
“If you ask99 percent of Americans and held up a picture of an evergreen with ornaments on it, oh it’s Christmas tree,” said Vos.
On Tuesday, the Assembly voted and passed a resolution to rename the holiday decoration a “Christmas tree,” but it won’t officially make a difference before the end of the year. The resolution did not reach the Senate yet, who will remain in recess until next year.
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