By: Sharon Aron Baron
Note: This story is ongoing….
Last year, after negotiating with elected officials, and with the help from the ACLU, activist Chaz Stevens was allowed to install an eight feet tall festivus pole outside of Deerfield Beach’s main fire station.
Fast forward to yesterday, a private group called the Florida Nativity Scene Committee installed a manger display in the State Capitol in Tallahassee. The Miami Herald also reported that another group, Reclaim Christ for Christmas, intends to add the Three Wise Men.
The American Civil Liberties Union warned that by allowing private groups to set up religious displays, the state was opening itself up to having to allow all sorts of individual monuments.
By 9 p.m. last night, Deerfield Beach activist Chaz Stevens was writing to Governor Rick Scott, asking for authorization to build his festivus pole, which is an 8-foot-tall tower made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, right next to the manger.
Stevens, who considers himself a “self-proclaimed militant Atheist,” is feared by politicians everywhere as a corruption fighter. Festivus, a secular holiday celebrated on December 23, commemorates the holiday season and avoids wanton commercialism. Festivus became part of worldwide popular culture after being featured on the Seinfeld episode “The Strike” where Frank Costanza noted, “No, instead, there’s a pole. It requires no decoration. After erecting a festivus pole last year next to a menorah and a nativity scene, on city property, the city voted to not allow religious displays at all on public owned property.
“This year, the city has prohibited all private displays which means, good news, my pole is free (no pun intended). Therefore, we’d like to make the trip to Tallahassee and erect the pole next to the manger. Kindly let me know when’s a good time.”
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said no religious symbols, including a menorah, should be displayed in government buildings. “And I’m not sure the people who manage the state Capitol fully appreciate the door that they have opened,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to say ‘no’ to the group that they don’t favor and ‘yes’ to today’s group that they obviously do favor.”
Early this morning, Stevens received a call from Sherrie Routt from the Department of Management Services inquiring about his Festivus Pole application.
Routt had two questions:
- When does he want to install the festivus pole and for how long?
- They also wanted a pictured faxed or emailed.
Let the Feats of Strength BEGIN!
From: Chaz Stevens [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, December 05, 2013 9:09 AM
To: Routt, Sherrie
Subject: The 2013 PBR Holiday Festivus Pole
Thank you for calling me and helping me with my application.
As requested, here is a picture of the Festivus Pole Kindly note, this version of the display in the attached pictures stands over 8” tall. However, the one that will be on display in the Capitol Building will conform to DMS guidelines — under 6 feet tall. Both occupy about a 2’x2’ area.
Kindly confirm receipt of this email.
I received it, please stand by while we process your request.
Sherrie K. Routt, Administrative Assistant II
Department of Management Services
We Serve Those Who Serve Florida