Christmas Tree Controversy

Christmas Tree Controversy
BELLEVUE - You can't miss the Christmas tree in Bellevue City Hall.

"It's decorated with gold balls and gold ribbon," described a city worker.

They don't actually call it a Christmas tree.

"We call it the 'giving tree' because it's meant as a season of giving and that's what it's for," explained Patrice Cole, who just made a donation.

The tree is adorned with requests for gifts from needy families. It generates nearly $25,000 worth of donations.

So, you might be surprised that Sidney Stock would look at this tree and say, "I resent it."

Sidney and Jennifer Stock are atheists.

They asked the city council to remove the tree because it represents Christmas, which is a Christian holiday.

Stock says city hall should: "Act as a place where everybody feels welcome. It is impossible for everybody's religious belief to be displayed and non-religious belief to be displayed, so therefore, no religious beliefs be displayed."

The courts already sided with the city on this one.

Barbara Ramey, spokesperson for the city explained. "Courts have ruled that Christmas trees are actually a secular symbol so given that, we are within the court precedents set on this issue," says Ramey.

The Stocks complained after a city worker told them the tree makes him feel out of place, and if he says so, he fears for his job.

The couple's already gotten hate-filled phone calls, but they speak out anyway, because they believe many people feel the way they do but stay silent.

"There are a lot of people who've come to this country, maybe have been here for years, who don't feel freedom to say anything," says Jennifer Stock. "So we feel we're saying it for those people. Not just for ourselves."

The city doesn't plan to take the tree down and expects it will go up again next year.

They can also expect to hear from the Stocks.

Sidney Stock points out that to bring about change, you have to stir the pot.

"I try and be aware of injustice and inequality when it affects anybody or everybody," he says. "Certainly this is something that has been a problem for as long as I can remember."

For More Information:

Ken Schram's commentary on the hub-bub -- www.komotv.com