In a release sent Monday morning, R.I. Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced that the State House tree will be officially called a "Christmas tree" rather than the controversial "Holiday Tree" name it has had in the past.
Bishop Thomas Tobin commended Chafee for his "positive approach and common sense to this contentious issue."
"Hopefully the presence of a 'Christmas Tree' at the State House will speak the true meaning of this special season and will allow us all to enjoy the blessings of peace, joy and fellowship with one another," Tobin said in a release.
Chafee's past decisions to leave out the word "Christmas" were met with complaints and occasional outrage. Rhode Islanders took to the Internet to voice their dissent in 2011 and 2012, and some local churches followed suit with their own organized protests. In 2011, Tobin called the omission "disheartening and divisive," urging Chafee to reconsider "for the sake of peace and harmony in our state."
This year the protesters will get their wish, as Chafee said he hopes to direct people's attention to more important matters. In his statement, Chafee said the State House tree lighting - a "presumably happy event" - turned into a "focal point for too much anger."
"Strangely lost in the brouhaha was any intellectual discussion of the liberties pioneered here in Rhode Island," Chafee said in the release. "Because I do not think how we address the State House tree affects our 'lively experiment,' this year's invitation calls the tree a Christmas tree."
Governor Chafee: State House spruce will be 'Christmas tree,' not 'holiday tree,' in 2013 | WPRI.com
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -- Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced Thursday's tree-lighting ceremony with only 30 minutes notice in order to prevent critics that crashed last year's event from showing up again.
While the decision may have helped avoid some chaos, it also disappointed some people, including the head of the Providence Catholic Diocese.
"The White House has a Christmas tree, so why can't Rhode Island?" asks Bishop Thomas Tobin.
Gov. Chafee and Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly squared off on national television Thursday night , and the bishop tells us he watched.
"Those national TV interviews can be very difficult and very challenging, so it was a difficult moment but I think the governor was very consistent in conveying his message," said Bishop Tobin.
The message is about the tree that's now lit inside of the RI state house. Controversy surrounding the tree was sparked last year when Gov. Chafee called it a "holiday tree" rather than a Christmas tree.
"It's just a crazy name. As long as he calls it a holiday tree, people are going to be upset and reject that," said the bishop. "I don't know what he'll do about the Christmas tree in the years to come if indeed he's still our governor."
Bishop: Holiday Tree is a "Crazy Name" | WPRI.com
I love Christmas. It's a hoot to see the Christers get all het up over a German pagan symbol that is mentioned nowhere in the bible.