Tongue Tied: 'Winter Celebration,' Satan Ban Struggle and Grinches Everywhere

A monument to the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks is not appropriate for city property in Geneva, N.Y., because it depicts a child in what appears to be prayer, reports the Finger Lakes Times.

The monument depicts a child's hands joined and fingers extended toward heaven, a pose associated with Christian prayer, along with a firefighter and police officer raising a U.S. flag and the words "Together We Stand." The date of the attacks is at the bottom.

In a letter to the paper, lawyer Michael Bersani, a member of the Geneva Human Rights Commission, said placing the monument on city property would have violated the First Amendment.

He said the monument also could have isolated Islamic people who believe the president's "War Against Terrorism" is a crusade against Islam, as well as cause Jews and Muslims to feel more excluded.

The monument was going to be placed in a city park but a dedication ceremony was postponed because of concerns from a city councilor. It was instead installed at an American Legion post in nearby Canandaigua and the city will find another memorial. (Thanks to Steven G.)

Pioneer Pete and Patty

A musket-toting mascot at an Oregon high school is coming under fire because some believe the image of an armed pioneer is not appropriate at a modern high school, reports The Oregonian.

Pioneer Pete, who has graced the halls and letter jackets of Oregon City High School for decades, has already had his trusty musket erased in some spots and replaced with a flagpole. He was also removed from a pamphlet scheduled to be sent to prospective candidates for the job of school superintendent.

Now administrators want the gun removed in all places or, even better, the solo Pioneer Pete replaced by a pioneer couple for a mascot. (Thanks to Lars L.)

And to All a Good Night

King County executive Ron Sims stirred up a hornets' nest of protest recently by suggesting that employees of the Seattle-area county refrain from publicly acknowledging Christmas and instead call the festivities "holiday celebration" or "winter celebration," reports The Seattle Times.

In a memo sent to employees last month, Sims asked that any holiday celebration be "religion-neutral."

"We at King County want to ensure that any upcoming holiday celebration at the workplace is held in a respectful, inclusive and sensitive manner that does not favor one religion over another," it said.

Officials there said they were bombarded by angry letters and e-mails when word of the memo leaked out. "They're hysterical," spokeswoman Elaine Kraft said of the complainers. "We've received vicious and angry phone calls."

King County Councilman Kent Pullen said that as a result of the memo, employees were going out of their way to wish each other a Merry Christmas.

"My calendar lists Dec. 25 as Christmas Day," he said. "In our diverse society, most people of different faiths aren't offended when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas. I would be reluctant in our cold, wet, rainy city to wish anyone a happy winter celebration. I'm afraid I'd get a very hostile reaction."

Letting the Prince of Darkness Prevail

A proclamation by the mayor of Inglis, Fla., banishing the devil from town is drawing criticism from some locals who say it blurs the line between church and state, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

The problem is that Mayor Carolyn Risher put the proclamation on city letterhead, and for that Inglis resident Polly Bowser is organizing an effort to have the mayor removed from office. She said she has been contacted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. "The woman has broken the law and nobody notices it," Bowser said.

Risher's proclamation, inserted on fence posts at the four entrances to town, read: "Be it known from this day forward that Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis. Satan is hereby declared powerless, no longer ruling over, nor influencing, our citizens."

Nice Work If You Can Get It

A group calling itself an independent, nonpartisan research and action organization is decrying video and computer games because they are not diverse enough, reports The Associated Press.

California-based Children Now says after studying the top 10 best-selling games for a variety of game systems and computers that nearly all the game heroes are white males, with women representing just 16 percent of human characters. It said women generally were portrayed as bystanders or secondary characters. Eighty-six percent of black women were portrayed as victims of violence and there were no Hispanic female characters, it said. (Thanks to Daniel G.)

Grinches, Grinches Everywhere

The Washington Times reports a raft of anti-Christmas attitudes at public schools across the country this year, including a tale about two students in Minnesota disciplined for wearing red and green scarves and wishing people a Merry Christmas in a school play.

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Va.-based organization that provides legal representation in cases involving religious discrimination, tells the paper that he has received at least 50 complaints about grinchy administrators at public schools this year. "We're getting besieged," he said.

Other examples of excess cited include a teacher in Plymouth, Ill., who was warned by her principal not to read a book about Christmas to her second-grade students even though it was in the school library, and two ninth-graders in Massachusetts who were told they could not create Christmas cards that say "Merry Christmas" or depict a nativity scene. (Thanks to David B.)

From the Central Servers:

Jay P. in San Antonio, Texas, wonders:

Since Winston McGill is against memorializing the founder of Portland, Maine on the premise that he might have owned slaves, how does he feel about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or the other founding fathers of our great nation, who actually did own slaves?

Pat R. in Locust Grove, Va., writes:

I found your piece about the Ramsey County Minnesota officials who removed the red poinsettias from the courthouse most amusing. Unless I'm completely mistaken, the symbolism represented by "white doves carrying olive branches" (which adorn the banner used instead of the offensive plants) is from the story of Noah in the Old Testament. Doesn't that offend someone?

Dennis M. in Morgantown, W.Va., writes:

So the Gainesville, Fla. Airport Authority thinks it's best not to schedule or promote prayer services in their chapel. I can't help but wonder what they think their Chapel is for then?

Francis C. writes:

I wonder how many of the women protesting the "Women of Mizzou" calendar were around to protest the objectification of men in the "Men of Mizzou" calendar.

Jeff G. writes:

As an atheist, I must say that I do not understand why certain individuals feel threatened by Christmas. I realize that the majority of people in this country are of the Christian belief and I respect their right to celebrate Christmas. I am not offended by flowers, decorations or Santa Claus on the street, in City hall or in the local school or anywhere for that matter.

How can anyone be offended by a holiday, any holiday, for which the emphasis is Peace, Love and forgiveness of others?

As an Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps I have been to many occasions where prayer was given, never have I felt discriminated against, segregated or threatened. Instead of whining, I bow my head and keep silent out of respect of others around me and their belief, and in return, the respect my belief and we all get along just fine. I often wonder if the people who whine about these things have ever had the opportunity to truly spend time in a third world country to really know how good, easy and fair we really have it and that at this moment in history, this truly is the greatest country on the planet.