By JACKIE CROSBY
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
March 25, 2006
The story of the bunny's eviction from the lobby of the City Council offices is the talk of the town on public airwaves, in skyways and on Web sites throughout the country. Even Fox's Bill O'Reilly asked about it.
Those who agreed with the decision to pull "Happy Easter" messages kept a relatively low profile; several city employees who applauded the move asked to remain unidentified.
But those on the other side were eager to be heard.
"I'm getting very tired of this trend by some of our elected officials to stifle out everything because just one person thinks it is offensive," said John Krenik, in a posting on a St. Paul E-Democracy online forum. "So I ask, what is next? Do we drop the St. Patrick's Day Parade because it is based on religious traditions?"
By lunchtime, City Council President Kathy Lantry's office had received 50 e-mails, the majority blasting her decision Wednesday to remove a banner, bunnies and eggs that greeted visitors to the City Council offices with the words, "Happy Easter."
Likewise, Human Rights Director Tyrone Terrill's voice mail was full and his office was barely keeping pace with the flood of e-mails, many of them hate-filled. Terrill had sent Lantry an e-mail saying "it would be a good thing" to take down the Easter decorations because they could be offensive to non-Christians.
The items included a cloth rabbit and pastel-colored eggs bearing the "Happy Easter" message. They belonged to one of the council secretaries and were not bought with city money. The secretary has also put up decorations inside the City Council lobby to celebrate fall, Christmas, Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day for at least a decade.
"My issue was not about the rabbit or the egg, it was the sign on the door that said, 'Happy Easter,' " Terrill said Thursday. "We talk about diversity, respect, inclusion. When you put that on the front door of a government office, it could be offensive to someone who's a Muslim, a Jew, an atheist, what have you. That's my job to bring it to someone's attention."
Drive-time talk radio and a message board on AOL's home page buzzed Thursday with the topic of whether city officials were being reactionary or prudently defending the rights of non-Christians who don't celebrate Easter.
Council Member Dave Thune, who said "it's a shame" to remove the decorations, said he received an e-mail on the matter at 3:30 a.m. from someone in Singapore who read it online.
"As much as I believe in the separation of church and state, I think it's an overreaction," Thune said. "This makes everyone look foolish, to ban the bunny."
He said producers for "The O'Reilly Factor" called to inquire.
Lantry said her decision was not about "being politically correct" but that government shouldn't advance the cause of religion with Easter signs.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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