California's Sonoma County has rescinded a ban on star and angel ornaments on county Christmas trees following a barrage of criticism over the policy.
The county's top official Administrator Chris Thomas Wednesday reversed his order banning the ornaments two days earlier. He apologized in an e-mail to employees for "any inconvenience and disruption."
Thomas ordered stars, angels and other religious emblems be removed from Christmas trees in all government buildings on Monday following a complaint by atheist Irv Sutley, a disabled 65-year-old Marine veteran who said the symbols were "extremely offensive" and part of the "cult" of Christianity.
Sutley said the angel violated previous court rulings concerning holiday displays, including a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found that government-sponsored Christmas trees decorated with religious symbols constitute an illegal endorsement of Christian doctrine.
Local church leaders spoke out against the ban. At least one county employee openly defied it, and county supervisor Shirlee Zane said it was a decision that should involve the full board of supervisors.
Sutley said he would consult with attorneys before deciding whether to sue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.