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To rival nativity scene, beer-can adorned 'Festivus' pole, of Seinfeld parody fame, to rise in FL Capital

The News Service of Florida wins the insidernets today. The story:

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 9, 2013 ………. A nearly 6-foot-tall pole made from emptied beer cans, marking a parody holiday, will be put up in the Florida Capitol this week as a not-so-subtle protest to the recent placement of a Christian nativity scene.

The homemade Festivus pole will be erected most likely on Wednesday in the same first-floor rotunda as a nativity scene depicting the birth of Jesus Christ that was put up last week by the Florida Prayer Network.

“I still chuckle, I literally can’t believe there will be a pile of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans in the state rotunda,” said Chaz Stevens, a Deerfield Beach resident who applied to the state Department of Management Services to put the Festivus pole on display.

Stevens, who operates a blog that focuses on South Florida politics, said the intent of the Festivus pole is to make a political statement on the need for the separation of church and state.

He compared the Festivus pole to the nativity scene as “my ridiculous statement versus what I consider, as an atheist, as their ridiculous statement.”

Festivus is a "holiday" created for the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" as a non-commercial festival "for the rest of us" in the Christmas and year-end holiday season. Festivus, celebrated Dec. 23, 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."

Festivus purists may favor a more-simple unadorned aluminum pole, but Stevens said the use of beer cans --- he wouldn't say who emptied the cans --- is in line with the irreverent spirit of those who celebrate the holiday.

Late last week, the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for non-theists and promotes the separation of church and state, also set up a "Bill of Rights nativity" banner in the rotunda. The foundation's banner states: "At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the Birth of the Unconquered Sun --- the TRUE reason for the season."

Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, said last week that such displays only "shine more light" on her group’s message that she said isn’t to be viewed as a state-sponsorship of religion.

"It’s their right, they have a right to exercise freedom of speech, that’s what America is about," Olsen said. "It doesn’t faze me, it doesn’t faze the God I serve."

Olsen said of the banner "the foundation celebrates the birth of the unconquered sun, but I know the creator of the son.”

Stevens, a proud card-carrying 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.

The department does limit the height of displays based on where they are located in the rotunda, and prohibits displays from blocking permanent memorials such as the Civil Rights and Veterans halls of fame. There are rules against noise and impeding official business.

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.

In October, 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."

The Festivus pole is expected to go up Wednesday, a day after Gov. Rick Scott and the members of the Florida Cabinet hold a tree-lighting ceremony to mark the arrival of Florida-grown Christmas trees outside their first floor offices.

The Florida Prayer Network’s nativity is to remain in place until Dec. 27.

Another nativity scene, by a group called Reclaim Christmas for Christ, is planned to be on display from Dec. 27 to Jan. 6 for Three Kings Day.

Monday was the scheduled last day for a menorah display by the Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle-Tallahassee. Stevens’ pole will go up where the menorah has been located.

Both the Festivus pole and the Freedom From Religion Foundation's banner are permitted to remain in place until Jan. 3.

Stevens said the problem with allowing one group to use public space to express its beliefs is that when one is allowed there will be more from even more-diverse groups.

“I’ve got kind a bizarre mind at times, but I’m sure that somebody’s not going to show the restraint that I have,” Stevens said.

Wolf said Monday morning the department had not received any other applications for holiday displays in the rotunda.

Comments

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LOL

“I still chuckle, I literally can’t believe there will be a pile of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans in the state rotunda,” said Chaz Stevens, a Deerfield Beach resident who applied to the state Department of Management Services to put the Festivus pole on display.

Mr. Stevens, you sir are an are no more an idiot than the characters of the show you are fashioning your statement after. Grow up!

Kelly Anderson

Thank you so much for making such an important statement for the rest of us, festivus. This protest is one that should not be necessary more than 200 years after our Constitution and our bill of rights with separation of church and state was drafted by our founding fathers. I wish I was there to see it!

Dan

Isn't America great?
We live in such a place of freedom that we can ALL express our true hearts and beliefs.
It's really sad though, when certain small minded people, probably suffering from something like the Napolean Complex, feel the need to try to hamper, reduce or omit others rights and beliefs through immature, even childish efforts.
Our government showed this to be true by allowing the festivus art to be displayed. Mr Stevens states that that there is a problem because others will use the space.
Mr Stevens, in my most eloquent vanacular...."Please don't be such a spoiled childish duche bag!!!
There were no other requests listed other than what was listed above!
I support you having the festivus pole displayed there. What I find so ridicously ofennsive, immature and small minded is that you don't feel others should display theirs!
We are ALL one human family! Our diversity is what make life interesting, beaitiful and helps us to further evolve!
I support your display.
I pitty your heart, mind set and a call to others of the same heart and mind to negitive action.
Lets just all appreciate each other and the diversity of our beliefs and cultures!
EVERYONE should be focusing on bringing the human family conscious together!
Our time is running very short and THIS should be everyone's main focus!!!
Happy Holidays to ALL!!!
No matter what you celabrate! (Unless it is harmful to others)

Karen503

I can't wait to see the outrage from the War on Christmas folks like twit Sarah Palin and twat Bill O'Reilly.

ed jenkins

The citizens do not want this trash next to a time honored Christmas tradition and it needs to be removed. While not of this religion I recognize the Christian foundation of our country and respect those traditions and look forward to them every year as everyone including those not of the Christian religion does to all of the great traditions this time of year. Our founding fathers would not look kindly on a religion that they wanted to be the foundation of their country being made fun of in this manner and these hooligans would be punished.

Meathead Goldwyn

DIsgraceful! Pabst?! Shame on them. At least they could use a premium beer worth worshiping.

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