No RI Statehouse tree lighting after 2011 protest

November 26, 2012 - 4:34 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee (CHAY'-fee) won't be hosting a tree lighting ceremony this season following last year's hubbub over what to call the Statehouse Christmas spruce.

Chafee's spokeswoman said Monday instead of a tree lighting event, student choral groups will participate in a series of Statehouse performances leading up to Christmas.

Last year, protesters crashed Chafee's tree lighting ceremony to criticize him for referring to the tree as a "holiday" tree. Chafee said the term was meant to honor the state's origin as a sanctuary of religious tolerance.

Critics claimed he was trying to secularize Christmas. They flooded his office with thousands of telephone calls of protest.

Chafee's spokeswoman says he made his position on the tree clear last year and is focused on more important matters now.