Current Events vs. Founding Documents

This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.

It's A Christmas Tree !

Constitution, first amendment, religion, separation between Church and State

Entry 171

Current Event


According to, Dec 13, 2012

Menorah lit for first time at Vt. Statehouse


'Tis the season in Montpelier; decorations are up, including the holiday tree on the Vt. Statehouse lawn.

According to the state it's a holiday tree and not a Christmas tree, protecting the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.

"Christmas trees are called holiday trees sometimes because the tree itself is not considered a religious symbol," said Allen Gilbert of the American Civil Liberties Union in Vermont.

But Rabbi Tobie Weisman disagrees and says it's a Christmas tree.

Rabbi Tobie Weisman: I think Christmas is represented by the tree.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Even though it's called a holiday tree?

Rabbi Tobie Weisman: Yes, because that's not part of the Jewish holiday. A Christmas tree is a religious symbol.

Weisman's request to light a menorah on the Statehouse lawn so Jews feel included this holiday season was granted. It will be in Montpelier for only one and a half hours.

"If you live in a smaller community like we do, we do feel more isolated and not part of the wider community when there's just a Christmas tree," Weisman said.

The state granted Weisman's request because it's only temporary. They say putting a menorah up for the duration of Hanukkah next year will have to be reviewed.

"What's happening is people are trying to exercise their First Amendment right for individual religious expression, which is a great thing," Gilbert said.

Religious controversy has been around for years all over the nation. Gilbert says it's an indication of just how difficult it is to preserve religious freedom.

"Holding onto the tolerance this country was founded on requires constant work and makes us all uncomfortable at times," Gilbert said.

Gilbert says by allowing the lighting, the government is staying out of religion by not endorsing any one religion.

"If it's a menorah with a holiday or Christmas tree then it's much more likely a court would say that's permissible," Gilbert said.



Atheists vs. Freedom and The Constitution


Founding Document

US Constitution; 1st Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


To quote Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802

 “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. “


We the People:


It’s a menorah for Hanukkah, not a holiday candle holder!  Likewise, as the Rabbi said, “it’s a Christmas tree”, not a holiday tree. As Mr. Gilbert indicates, some are uncomfortable with such religious tolerance.  But the first amendment was not violated by these displays because Congress did not make a law respecting the establishment of a religion.


Happy Hanukkah.


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