Ban On Angels, Stars On County Christmas Trees

December 21, 2009

Author: Derek Moore

Source: The Press Democrat

Sonoma County's top official on Monday ordered the removal of stars, angels and other religious symbols from Christmas trees in county buildings after a complaint that the decorations violate constitutional protections.

“I understand the concern about government endorsing religion or a doctrine, and I respect that is not our role,” Acting County Administrator Chris Thomas said.

The complaint was lodged by Irv Sutley of Santa Rosa, a 65-year-old disabled veteran who has a long history of protesting the use of religious symbols in government settings.

One of the offending trees was in the lobby of Thomas' office. He said he didn't become aware that the star atop the tree might be a problem until consulting with county attorneys.

“A star on top of the tree is a religious symbol for some people,” Thomas said.

Sutley, an atheist and chairman of the county's central committee for the Peace and Freedom Party, said he spotted an angel on a tree in the lobby of the county Recorder's Office on Friday while gathering voter information for his bid for re-election in the June primary.