Rules May End Washington State Holiday-Symbol War

A new Washington state interim policy regarding religious symbols on Capitol grounds has gone into effect just in time to ward off conflicts this holiday season.


Last year, in order to comply with a court ruling, the state allowed a Nativity scene and an atheist sign to be displayed inside the Capitol building next to a “holiday tree” and a menorah.


Gov. Christine Gregoire was criticized by the right-wing media for allowing the atheist sign, which was later stolen and tossed into a ditch. Fox News Channel personality Bill O’Reilly said the sign “insulted Christians all over the world,” and at one point, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the building demanding that it be removed.


Gregoire responded that she was only respecting an earlier court ruling in a case brought by the Alliance Defense Fund in 2007 on behalf of an Olympia man who wanted to erect the Nativity scene in the Capitol rotunda. The court, in allowing for the creche, opened the building to displays of all religious viewpoints, she said.


But this year, according to The Seattle Times, all displays sponsored by private organizations must stay on outdoor grounds. Non-governmental displays will not be allowed in any building on Capitol grounds, according to the new policy.


“We want to preserve everyone’s right to free expression,” said Steve Valadra, spokesperson for the Department of General Administration. “We just want to make sure we manage things better than they went last year.”