Mayor: No Tax Dollars for Christmas Tree on City Land

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini. (Courtesy photograph.)

The arrival of a Christmas tree on city land in downtown Haverhill a week before Thanksgiving has some residents debating over its timing and the alleged use of tax dollars for, “a religious purpose.

However, Allison Heartquist, executive assistant to Mayor James J. Fiorentini, told WHAV, “Valley Tree Services donated their services. This was done through the chamber of commerce.  In past years, the City has paid for these services, but not this year.”

This year’s city Christmas tree was put in place in Washington Square Wednesday after tree workers harvested an evergreen donated by a resident in the upper Hilldale Avenue area. Online comments to the timing of the tree placement range from reminiscing of past downtown holiday decorations, or “nothing wrong with a little Christmas spirit early,” to allegations that “tax dollars are being used for a religious purpose rather than to fix roads.”

Decorating efforts are under way as the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree will take place at the end of ChillFest (formerly Christmas Stroll), being held from 2 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 6.

9 thoughts on “Mayor: No Tax Dollars for Christmas Tree on City Land

  1. Ah, yes, you know Christmas is near when we start getting arguments about the constitutionality of Christmas displays. Can the jingle of lawsuits be far behind?

    It probably matters to few that the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that government involvement or even sponsorship of Christmas displays was acceptable, as long as it also served some legitimate secular purpose and did not express a particular religious message (my paraphrase) . Most notably, was a case from Pawtucket, RI where the city not only displayed a Christmas tree, but also a Santa house, a banner saying “Seasons Greetings”, and a Christmas nativity creche. The Court ruled that the entire display was constitutional.

    There is nothing inherently “Christian” about a tree; it is not a overt or foundational symbol of the faith, such as an erected cross might be. There is no banner draped across the branches saying “Believe in Jesus”. It is a only secular representation of the holiday. And while governments are proscribed from excessive entanglements with religion, the constitution also “affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”

    What Haverhill is doing comes nowhere near the threshold of violating the first amendment. But it seems that the idea of simply acknowledging a holiday with religious roots, never mind religion itself, is so offensive to some that even tolerating the whiff of holiday spirit is anathema. Thankfully there is no constitutional protection against being offended. At least not yet.

    • Just another example of the supreme court getting it wrong (like money is free speech, corporations are people and checkpoints aren’t illegal searches). Courts even allowed OK to put the 10 commandments on the front steps to the state capitol. The fact is, christians run the show in this country. That’ll change eventually, but it will take quite a while. In the meantime, the rest of us will continue to be repressed by them.

      Everyone who says an evergreen being cut down and then displayed elsewhere this time of year isn’t an xmas tree, is lying to themselves. And since xmas is the biggest holiday of the religion it’s just silly to suggest the two are only vaguely associated. Secular representation of a religious holiday! A holiday with religious roots! That’s funny stuff 😉

  2. Were DPW workers involved with the installation? Were cops involved with the installation? What about police cars and DPW equipment? Who’s paying for the electricity to light the xmas tree? I’m certain that tax dollars were/will be used somewhere in this xmas tree display.

    What’s sad is that it would be so easy to fix this problem. Just lose the religious symbols (the xmas tree, in this case). There are already trees growing there, so installing lighting would be no problem. They already changed the Christmas Stroll to Chillfest. And calling the Santa Parade the Winter Parade wouldn’t cause any problem either.

    No doubt people will say “stop complaining” and “it’s not a religious thing” and “why can’t you leave well enough alone”. My answer is because right is right. Government should represent everyone. By endorsing one group (in this case christians), the government is showing favoritism and in effect disenfranchising everyone else.

    • Funny Eric that America was founded upon those Christian values. And the assertion of separation of church and state was to keep the state out of religious affairs, not the other way around. If you want to worship a turtle, have a blast and feel free to put the turtle next to the Christmas tree. Oh, I assume then you will be working on Christmas Day and NOT taking the paid holiday ??

      • Worship a turtle? What are you talking about?

        America wasn’t exactly founded on christian values, by the way. But I’m not interested in giving you a history lesson. I will simply suggest you look into it. Maybe you have a real interest, I don’t know.

        And since you keep bringing it up, xmas being a federal holiday is beyond absurd. Just another example of the constitution being stomped on.

    • So my tax dollars can’t pay for what I believe in ? The Govt. isn’t supporting a religion per say but a holiday. I guess you and Eric are working on Christmas and NOT taking the holiday pay for the day off right ?

      Are you also against the 2nd amendment too ? Funny how people will do two things when involved in a crime: Call someone with a gun and pray they get there fast.

      • So you want my money to pay for your celebration. And you can’t see how wrong that is? Really?

        As for the gun issue baiting, I’m not gonna bite. Unlike you, I can stay on topic 🙂