Worldwide Wednesday: Only in Florida? In Tallahassee a homemade “Festivus” pole is being erected in the same first-floor rotunda as a Nativity scene. The idea and pole arose from Chaz Stevens, a Deerfield Beach resident who applied to the state Department of Management Services to put the Festivus pole on display. Stevens says the intent of the pole is to make a political statement on the need for the separation of church and state.
Stevens says the Festivus pole is “my ridiculous statement versus what I consider, as an atheist, as their ridiculous statement.”
According to followers of Festivus protocols the “fake holiday” (and aren’t they all rather arbitrary?) is celebrated on December 23 and comes with a ceremonial post-dinner “airing of the grievances” in which participants describe how they have been disappointed by others in the past year and engage in “feats of strength.”
I would definitely say Mr. Stevens is doing both with this Blue Ribbon Festivus pole. He is airing his grievance with a state that promotes the worship of Jesus and flexing his muscle as a citizen of the state with the same rights of self-expression as so called Christians.
Stevens is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, requested the Festivus display space from the state Department of Management Services after reading about the Nativity display. A preliminary approval was given Friday with the formal approval made Monday.
Ben Wolf, a spokesman for the Department of Management Services, said as long as there is space available, and the proposed display meets state guidelines, it would likely get approval.
“As long as it meets those guidelines and there is space available in the capitol, DMS is happy to allow all cultures, and denominations, and committees and groups to put up their holiday displays,” Wolf said.
So what is the point? Stevens got Deerfield Beach to put up a similar, but taller pole last year after a local group put up a Nativity scene outside a city fire house and in response Deerfield Beach officials decided to ban all holiday displays on city-owned land that aren’t put up by the local government.
“If you follow this and really are into this separation of church and state, holiday display thing, it’s a battle that’s fought all across America,” Stevens said. “It’s not as simple as yes or no. It’s really a local issue.”