Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Last year, Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17 was labeled a Grinch and spawned multiple self-congratulatory Fox News segments after insisting the evergreen in the Statehouse be called a “holiday” tree. This year, seeking to minimize the fallout from the non-existent, so-called “War on Christmas,” Chafee has acquiesced to the demands of past angry constituents.  “Despite the myriad of pressing issues facing Rhode Island and the nation, this presumably happy event became a focal point for too much anger,” Chafee said, before revealing that this year’s lighting ceremony will refer to the spruce as a Christmas tree. We support Chafee’s decision to move past last year’s manufactured controversy and his choice to focus on the state’s more pressing issues.

While we appreciated Chafee’s past attempts to be inclusive, the evergreen is always associated with Christmas, whether it is called a “holiday tree,” a “Hannukah bush,” or anything else. The object itself hasn’t changed, only what we call it — in either case, it retained the same symbolism.

More effective means of promoting inclusion exist. In the future, the Rhode Island Capitol could have symbols from other winter holidays from various backgrounds in hopes of appearing accepting. But having the tree does not prevent anyone from practicing a different religion or from choosing not to practice.

While it is unfortunate that Chafee caved to those who made hysterical statements and baseless attacks about a phantom “War on Christmas,” the state has too many problems for the governor to continually get stuck in such nonsense. Residents are free to practice their religion within the privacy of their own residences if they choose to do so and the presence of an evergreen that we now call a Christmas tree does not change that.

Rhode Island has a long and proud history of religious freedom. In the future, the state could potentially honor that history by encouraging religious leaders to donate their own symbols to the State House. If not, residents should remember that true religious freedom bans any sort of imposition of religion upon others, but permits people to practice their own faith however they see it.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Rachel Occhiogrosso, and its members, Daniel Jeon, Hannah Loewentheil and Thomas Nath. Send comments to



Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.