Judge calls Xmas tree a Christian symbol and orders it removed from courthouse
TORONTO, DEc. 21, 2006 (www.winnipegfreepress.com) — A Toronto judge has ordered the removal of a Christmas tree from the lobby of a provincial courthouse, sparking widespread anger among court staff.
Justice Marion Cohen ordered the decorated tree removed Monday from the lobby of the Ontario Court of Justice to an out-of-the-way corridor on grounds it is a Christian symbol that alienates people of other creeds and traditions.
In a letter to staff Tuesday, she defended the order while acknowledging “that many people are upset with my decision.”
“I am aware the Christmas tree has been placed in the front lobby at Christmas time for many years,” Cohen wrote.
“I do not think it appropriate that when the clients of our court enter our courthouse, the first thing they see is a Christian symbol. The message to the many non-Christians, who attend our court and are confronted with this symbol, is that they are not part of this institution. It does not belong to them. They are different.”
The tree, a small artificial plant decorated in lights, blue bunting and ornaments, has been relegated to a side corridor near administrative offices.
“A lot of people are ticked off,” said one worker who didn’t want to be named.
“It’s been here for years,” said another.
While staff were too shy to go on the record, public visitors had more than a few strong words about the judge’s decision.
“I think it’s pretty stupid,” said April St. Amour. “A Christmas tree is a Canadian tradition.”
“Whether people are Christian or not, they should leave it.”
Brendan Crawley, spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General, said Cohen is a local judge in charge of the administration of that particular courthouse.