Governor Lincoln Chafee, drawing many complaints and criticism from others, has decided to call the tree in the State House a “Holiday Tree,” and bases his actions on the fact that Roger Williams created this colony on the basis of religious tolerance. This has caused annoyance in very high places, including the Diocese of Providence, and even Bishop Tobin himself. Chafee thinks that calling it a Christmas tree is offensive to other religions in Rhode Island. The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut will also be hosting a holiday tree ceremony.
I think that the governor is missing the point entirely. By calling it a Christmas tree, we mean that the tree is the symbol of Christmas. It does not offend other religions; it simply is a way of associating a symbol with a holiday. By calling this a “Holiday tree,” the governor thinks he is pleasing other religions. My father went to meet the mayor today, and on the mayor’s desk there was a menorah. He asked, “Is that a holiday candelabra?” The mayor said, “No, it’s a menorah!” If Governor Chafee decided to change the name of the menorah to a “Holiday candelabra,” the Jewish people would be offended. By changing the name, he is causing more problems. If he hadn’t, we would have a normal holiday season. The word holiday means a day of celebration. Christmas refers to the Catholic holiday of Jesus’ birth. A Christmas tree is a tree that people decorate for Christmas. I saw we shouldn’t change the name.
Roger Williams founded this colony on the basis of religious tolerance. That means that all religions are welcome here. Governor Chafee has misinterpreted this statement, saying that Roger Williams wanted all religions here to be welcome, which he thinks means that if any object is named for a certain religion, it offends the others. The governor is wrong in that, too. By changing the name of something related to a certain religion, he offends the religion that named it.
I suggest that the name stays as a Christmas tree. The name merely refers to the holiday of Christmas, which is the only holiday that everyone celebrates this time of year. The only person that the name has offended so far is the governor himself. You can’t change something’s purpose by changing its name. No wonder John DePetro calls Chafee “Governor Grinch.”
Robert Baxter III is a seventh grader at Our Lady of Mercy School in East Greenwich. He wrote this essay as part of extra credit for Ms. Croteau’s social studies class.