Christmas, holiday tree debate at state capitol is “overblown”

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.

Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R, Juneau) called the change “PC garbage.”

“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.

More at WKOW 27 News

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