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RI governor defends holiday tree in Statehouse
RI's holiday tree upsets lawmaker, bishop; governor says it respects religious diversity
By The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) ' The head of the Roman Catholic church in Rhode Island's capital is criticizing the governor's decision to call the 17-foot-tall blue spruce recently erected in the Statehouse a holiday tree rather than a Christmas tree.

Bishop Thomas Tobin says independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee's (CHAY'-feez) decision to avoid the word Christmas at the Statehouse ceremony is "most disheartening and divisive."

Chafee has defended his position. He says it's in keeping with Rhode Island's founding as a haven for religious tolerance where government and religion were separate. In a statement issued Tuesday he encourages people upset with his decision to focus their energy on volunteering.

Lawmakers in January passed a resolution declaring the annual Statehouse tree a Christmas tree. Republican sponsor Rep. Doreen Costa says Chafee is disrespecting the Legislature and taking political correctness too far.

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