Bishop: The Christmas Tree Is Not a Trivial Thing'

(NECN: Josh Brogadir, Providence, RI) - Governor Lincoln Chafee not was not talking Tuesday night.

He has previously said it is a holiday tree, speaking about Rhode Island's centuries old roots of religious liberty.

His critics say this doesn't apply to that.

Three evergreens, trimmed with ornaments and lights - all illuminated on this night in Providence, Rhode Island.

But only two of them are called Christmas trees.

One is at St. Patrick's Church and was lit by the Catholic Bishop of the Providence Diocese, Thomas Tobin.

"Our debate about the Christmas tree is not a trivial thing even though some have suggested that it is," Bishop Tobin said.

The other one was in a shoulder-to-shoulder packed hallway in the state house, trimmed by Republican Representative Doreen Costa.

"This is what Christmas is about right here, we've got a Christmas tree and were going to sing Christmas carols," Rep. Costa said.

They have both been critical of the one in the Capitol rotunda, the towering 17 foot tall blue spruce, the center of a firestorm of controversy, because it has, by Rhode Island's independent Governor Lincoln Chafee, been called a holiday tree.

And that brought a flash mob of carolers - protesting the politically correct euphemism.

Led by radio talk show host John DePetro, they even interrupted the children's chorus - they say unintentionally - to sing Oh Christmas Tree.

"The children are singing," someone yelled.

"I think they got their point across and I agree with them," Paul Barnum, of Exeter, RI said.

"This is the largest turnout ever for a tree lighting. And the bulk of the people were here because they want to celebrate what that is, a Christmas tree," said DePetro, a host with WPRO.

There are those who see this as semantics, let's just let the tree represent the season.

"Whomever wants to call it in whatever language and whatever motivation or whatever reason, as I said were very tolerant," said Maria Cano, of Pawtucket, RI.

But a vocal majority say the governor is just plain wrong.

A Christmas tree is what it is.

"I think the governor could have kept his mouth shut about his political feelings about the tree," said Pat Anthony of Rumford, RI.

There was clearly no deciding this issue tonight.

But the turnout here was impressive either way, by some estimates more than four times what it has been in years past.

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