Sonoma gov't lifts Christmas symbols ban

Dec. 24, 2009 at 5:18 PM
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SANTA ROSA, Calif., Dec. 24 (UPI) -- An atheist chased stars and angels from Sonoma County, Calif., government buildings but a Jewish lawyer helped bring the Christian symbols back for Christmas.

Acting Sonoma County Administrator Chris Thomas reversed himself Wednesday and lifted a ban on religious symbols in county buildings he had ordered two days earlier, The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat reported Thursday. He sent county employees an e-mail apologizing for "any inconvenience and disruption."

Thomas reconsidered after some constituents complained and expressed their displeasure by disseminating pamphlets accusing him of robbing the holiday season of its joy for a "vast majority" of them.

"If we don't take a stand for our beliefs we will lose them," Arthur Maricle, pastor of Santa Rosa's New Hope Baptist Church, said. "Others paid in blood. I can pay in ink and paper."

County public defender Barry Collins, who happens to be Jewish, showed his opposition to the ban by putting a star on a Christmas tree in his office's lobby.

"I think it's ridiculous," he said of the ban. "I think it's important for an office like ours to take a stand."

The issue had started with a complaint from 65-year-old atheist Irv Sutley, who called Thomas's reversal a "real slap in the face to agnostics, atheists and every person who believes in the separation of church and state."

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