No Christmas story

Illumination of the Greenbelt program sees end of one tradition

All That Jazz performs for the crowd gathered at the Pistol Creek Station for the Illumination of the Greenbelt.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

All That Jazz performs for the crowd gathered at the Pistol Creek Station for the Illumination of the Greenbelt.

The Illumination of the Greenbelt, the fourth part of Blount County’s Hometown Christmas, attracted approximately 250 people to see the Christmas tree lit at the Pistol Creek Station in downtown Maryville on Monday, Dec. 7, but saw the end of a quarter-century tradition of reading the story of the birth of Jesus from the Bible.

At issue was whether a Biblical reading was appropriate at a city-sanctioned event on city property. Pam Arnett, public information officer for the city, said Mayor Tom Taylor received a call last week from an individual concerned about the reading of a biblical passage.

“The individual was not upset,” Arnett said, “but was concerned about the separation of church and state.”

She said Melanie Davis, attorney for the city, researched the issue and found that the reading “is not allowed.”

Davis said the city is simply complying with the law. The removal is, she said, “based on Supreme Court decisions, a lot of them over the years” dealing with the church-state separation issue.

“I felt it required us not to do that,” Davis said.

Arnett stressed that the decision to remove the reading should be construed only as the city’s obligation to comply with the law.

Walker Johnson has read the passage from the Scripture of Luke each Christmas season for the past 22 years. The event was removed from the official program after Davis ruling. However, Maryvillian Samuel David Duck did read from his own Bible as a group of 20 or so people gathered around him. Duck , an employee of the E.W. Scripps Company, is also running for governor under the “One Nation Under God” platform, according to reports in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Other traditions of Illumination of the Greenbelt continued, with the tree lighting, music, candy hunt and the arrival of Santa Claus on the Sanitation Santa truck. Santa made his way across the bridge to the rotunda of the library, where he sat for photos and to hear Christmas wishes.

The City Carolers, an adult choir made up of employees of the City of Maryville, were on hand to provide some musical Christmas cheer, and youth show choir All That Jazz added a little pizzazz.

The Illumination of the Greenbelt and all Hometown Christmas events are sponsored annually by Blount Today and Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation.

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Comments » 1

BuddyL writes:

I am so disgusted with the misinterpretation of the seperation of church and state clause. First of all one must understand the history and the circumstances that faced this nation when the founding fathers created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This nation was settled by a great many who were fleeing religious persecution from the government sanctioned Church of England. The founding fathers in their wisdom created the "seperation of church and state" to prevent the creation of an official government mandated church. The separation of church and state in no way should embody the prevention of political comment from the pulpit nor should it prevent the reading from that part of a religious book that simply tells the story of the holiday that is being celebrated by the people of their own free will. The whole purpose of Christmas is the celebration (mass) of Christ! Would it be acceptable to simply tell the story of the birth of Christ if it is not being read from the Bible.

If you are not a Christian then you are a hypocrite for celebrating Christmas. No one is forcing you to participate in the festivities. No one is forcing you to attend that part of the lighting ceremony that includes the story of the birth of Christ. I am not of Jewish heritage and thus I do not celebrate Hanukkah, at the same time I do not oppose a public celebration of this holiday (holy day) of my Jewish brothers and sisters. I think it would be great to see a public lighting of a big menorah as those in that community celebrate what to them is a period of time of holy days.

Why is it such a problem for a government sponsored program to proceed as it has for decades when the government is supposed to be for the people and by the people? The last time I checked we were supposed to be a democratic republic with majority rule. Suddenly (at least in historical time) the few have precedence over the many. To bring this to a close, remember:
Jesus IS the reason for the season!