RI gov. defends 'holiday' tree in Statehouse

By the Associated Press | November 29, 2011 | 1:50 PM EST

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's governor is defending his decision to call the 17-foot blue spruce recently erected in the Statehouse a "holiday" tree rather than a "Christmas" tree.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee (CHAY'-fee) says the term "holiday" tree is in keeping with Rhode Island's founding as a haven for religious tolerance where government and religion were kept separate.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the independent governor encouraged individuals upset with his decision to focus their energy on volunteering, such as feeding the poor.

In January, lawmakers passed a resolution declaring the annual Statehouse tree to be a "Christmas tree." Republican Rep. Doreen Costa, the resolution's sponsor, says Chafee is disrespecting the Legislature and takes political correctness too far.

Costa says she will set up her own Christmas tree at her Statehouse office.