WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The city of Wilmington has used the word "holiday" instead of "Christmas" for its tree lighting and parade for the last four to five years, but the terminology is drawing new criticism this season.
Several people emailed WECT after the city's holiday tree lighting last Friday, saying the phrase is too politically correct. The city will also hold a holiday parade Sunday evening.
"The use of the word holiday instead of Christmas has been an issue for governmental organizations across the country for the last several years. By using the word 'holiday,' the City of Wilmington is trying to maintain a balancing act between the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We make every effort to be respectful of all beliefs and forms of celebration while also adhering to the law," Malissa Talbert, city spokeswoman, said via e-mail. "This ongoing dilemma can be seen not just nationally, but also within the borders of New Hanover County - a review of various private and public events shows use of both words. This will no doubt continue to be a topic of debate unless or until we get further legal clarification, but in the mean time, the city wants to focus on the positive celebrations offered throughout our community at this time of year."
Talbert says the decision to go with "holiday" came on advice from counsel in the city attorney's office. Counsel suggested to make the change, but said to not do anything "official."
Talbert says the city has received complaints on both sides of the issue.
Council member Kevin O'Grady said the holiday tree is not a religious symbol, nor is the Menorah as ruled in an old court case. O'Grady said the Menorah will also be on display again this year.
While O'Grady believes everyone is entitled to their own opinion, he doesn't understand why calling it a holiday tree is a problem.
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