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Giving tree stirs controversy

UPI News Service, 12/16/2004 

A Bellevue, Wash., couple wants the city to take down its "giving tree" because they say it looks like a Christmas tree.

The tree outside City Hall is decorated with gold balls, ribbons and requests for gifts for needy families, KOMO-TV, Seattle, reported.

"We call it the giving tree because it's meant as a season of giving and that's what it's for," Patrice Cole, who just made a donation, told the television station news.

But Sydney and Jennifer Stock, who are atheists, have asked the City Council to remove the tree because it is a symbol of Christmas.

"It is impossible for everybody's religious belief to be displayed and non-religious belief to be displayed, so therefore, no religious beliefs (should) be displayed," Sydney Stock said.

So far, the courts have sided with the city.

"Courts have ruled that Christmas trees are actually a secular symbol so, given that, we are within the court precedents set on this issue," Barbara Ramey, a city spokeswoman said.

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Copyright 2004 by United Press International

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