San Jose’s Christmas Trees Under Fire – OpEd


Every year since the 1950s, San Jose has had a proud record of honoring Christmas with a grand display of Christmas trees. This year, however, a controversy has arisen over some trees.

San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez is the site of approximately 500 Christmas trees, an event organized by a non-profit organization, Christmas in the Park. Last year, it drew over 650,000 visitors. In addition to the display of Christmas trees, there are many Christmas-themed events for families. Unfortunately, some have politicized the annual celebration.

This year there is a tree erected by the Satanic Temple, and one that celebrates Colin Kaepernick kneeling on the field. There is also a section of the park set aside for LGBT activists: they placed a Barbie doll alongside an image of Bruce Jenner from the Olympics.

Offensive as these displays are, the origin of the problem can be traced to the event’s organizers. According to the ABC affiliate, KGO, they invited schools, businesses and non-profit organizations to “bring awareness to issues or causes they care about.”

While the motives may be noble, invitations to promote issues and causes that people care about ineluctably dilute the meaning of Christmas.

Would the organizers honor Black History Month by asking the public to participate in celebratory events that “bring awareness to issues or causes they care about”? Would this not ensure an attenuation of the respect due African-American achievements? Worse, it may even beckon white supremacists to promote their agenda.

There are those who, unlike the well-meaning people of San Jose, intentionally create faux competition with Christmas so as to neuter its essence.

For example, Freedom From Religion Foundation, a militant atheist anti-Christian group from Madison, Wisconsin, released a statement saying it would provide “free secular displays to erect in public forums.”

Why? “One reason to counter religious displays on public property is to ensure your point is represented at this time of the year.” In other words, the purpose is to “counter” Christmas displays. It is not an oversight that the atheists could care less about countering Hanukkah—it’s Christians they really hate.

City in the Park organizers need to get back to their roots, lest their goodwill be exploited by those with their own agenda. This event started in the 1950s with a nativity scene built by Don Lima in front of his family mortuary—it did not start with an invitation to promote any issue or cause that the public fancied.

There are plenty of opportunities to advance all sorts of political, economic, social, and cultural causes. They should not be held coterminously with Christmas celebrations.

William Donohue

William Donohue is the current president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the United States, and has held that position since 1993.

3 thoughts on “San Jose’s Christmas Trees Under Fire – OpEd

  • December 1, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Bill needs to remember that “Christmas” trees are a pagan tradition pre dating the invention of Christmas in 336 CE. Celebrating Christmas in America wasn’t popular in the US until the mid 19th century. Christmas trees were not popular in the United States until the early 1800’s. Also, in Jeremiah 10:1-5 it explicitly says that cutting down and decorating trees is the way of the heathen.

    Since Bill seems to neither understand the history of Christmas trees, nor what the Bible says about Christmas trees, I am not sure why he decided to write this horribly uninformed article.

  • December 1, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    ‘“One reason to counter religious displays on public property is to ensure your point is represented at this time of the year.” In other words, the purpose is to “counter” Christmas displays. It is not an oversight that the atheists could care less about countering Hanukkah—it’s Christians they really hate.’

    I like how you completely ignored the part about how the atheists are objecting to the government endorsing one religion over other options. Atheists don’t complain about government endorsement of Hanukkah as much because it’s not nearly as much of an issue in the U.S., but you’d better believe they’re mocking the bizarre excesses of ultra-orthodox Jews. But I guess if you stopped misrepresenting people’s motives, you wouldn’t have nearly as much to complain about.

    San Jose’s Christmas in the Park has been a wonderfully multicultural celebration for a long time now, and no amount of whining on your part will change the fact that Christmas *never* was an exclusively Christian holiday, and certainly isn’t now. It started as a pagan holiday, and it’s not also a secular one. The organizers of Christmas in the Park have done a splendid job of representing the city’s community, and since that community doesn’t have all that many paranoid, hyper-conservative Catholics, I expect it will be around for many years to come.

    No one is stopping you from celebrating it as a religious holiday in your churches or from putting up nativity displays on church lawns or other private property, and if you want people to take you seriously you really need to stop pretending that an absence of government coddling is somehow oppression. American Christianity has a vitality to it and can be a force for good when it wants to, and despite how you’re making it sound, isn’t so pathetic as to need the government to hold its hand.

  • December 4, 2017 at 4:42 am

    It’s literally not legal or Constitutional for any public property or government agency to discriminate based on religion. Therefore, if they allow Christians access to this public square, they must allow everyone else. That does mean EVERYONE, not just the people you personally like. To do anything else would be to violate the Establishment Clause. If you’d like a theocracy, move to Iran and tell us how that works out for you.

    “Christmas” is really just a holiday the church stole from the pagans in the 4th century in a desperate bid to get more converts (you know, before they went with the “convert-or-die” routine that they stuck with for the next millennia or so), so it’s kind of amusing when Christians claim they own the holiday season. Christmas trees, decorations, feasting, presents, lights, the colors red and green, evergreen symbols, heck even the celebration of birthdays in GENERAL were all pagan.


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