Sonoma County government has a new song this Christmas season. It’s called “Angels we have removed from on high.”
As noted in today’s story by Derek J. Moore, Sonoma County’s acting city manager on Monday ordered the removal of all stars, angels and other religious symbols from Christmas trees in county buildings.
Frankly, this looks like an overreaction to a complaint filed by a local athiest who has a history of complaining about these kinds of things. But rarely has a government official buckled so quickly.
The complaint was filed on Monday and the no-star Grinchly edict went out that same day. Acting County Administrator Chris Thomas should have taken more time on this one.
For one, it’s possible that the county’s directive could be violating the rights of individual county workers to celebrate the season if it extends to the ornaments hanging in their personal workspace areas.
In any event, the law, particularly as it relates to the famous 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning government holiday displays, is not as clear and bright as this edict seems to imply.
In that ruling the court said, “The Christmas tree, unlike the menorah, is not itself a religious symbol. Although Christmas trees once carried religious connotations, today they typify the secular celebration.” One can presume the court wasn’t talking about a bare evergreen in this case. Doesn’t the same hold true about a star on that tree?
– Paul Gullixson