I guess I am not sure whether I’m angry with Thornbury resident Tracy McPherson or not.
On one hand, I am annoyed with what I see as a smarty-pants attitude towards the holidays with her group – the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarians. McPherson, who has identified herself as a minister of the Evangelical Pastafarian Church, has requested that the Chester County commissioners allow one of its displays around the courthouse with the other displays.
On the other hand I think I sort of get the sense of the satire poking fun at those who have taken the issue of holiday displays to great heights.
McPherson told the commissioners Tuesday that she was upset last year when she drove by the courthouse in downtown West Chester and noticed the lack of any display concerning her faith.
“It would be meaningful to our congregation to see our faith recognized on public property at the Chester County Courthouse in the same way that the Christian and Jewish religions are currently acknowledged,” McPherson, who was accompanied by Thomas Reistle of Coatesville in making the request.
“The holiday season is very important to Pastafarians, as it coincides with our primary holiday, which is called Holiday,” McPherson said. “It is a time of joyful feasting, with unlimited pasta and grog, the favored drink of our Lord.”
McPherson’s request, which she insisted was quite serious, came prior to a presentation by the leader of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, Margaret Downey of Birmingham, to have the group’s “Tree of Knowledge” included in the courthouse display.
OK, so my feeling at this point is actually two-fold: either she’s dead serious and hopes to see some sort of pasta display this holiday season or she’s being very sarcastic about the whole holiday display mess we endure each year.
Either way, I’m still pretty sure she’s bugging me.
I understand that there are all sorts of groups who want their displays at the courthouse. However, I do think that over the years the holidays have become more political than anything else.
It is supposed to be a time of happiness and joy and sharing, etc., not a time to punt the holiday football back and forth. For example, Margaret Downey of Birmingham, leader of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, asked the commissioners to have the group’s “Tree of Knowledge” included in the courthouse display.
As reporter Michael Rellahan wrote, “Downey, who has made it somewhat of a holiday tradition of her own to ask that the group’s display be recognized as equal to the Menorah and crèche, accused to commissioners of treating her fellow atheists as ‘second class citizens’ and demeaning them by refusing to include the tree.
“The Tree of Knowledge, with its ornaments of a variety of books promoting education and questioning religion, had been included in the display until recent years, when the county adopted a policy allowing for no displays from outside groups. All the figures now used in the display are county-owned.
According to Rellahan’s article, in addition to the religious figures and holiday tree, display items include secular ones such as candy canes, a winter sleigh, and banners proclaiming “Happy Holidays” and “Peace on Earth.”
“Although she criticized the commissioners for not responding to earlier requests to have the group’s tree included, Downey offered to compromise by letting the three commissioners choose which of the many ornaments would not be hung on the tree if they found them offensive.
“’Our goal is to be included with fellow citizens in the 1012 winter holiday season,’” Downey said.
It’s obvious that the annual controversy continues to get county officials all worked up.
Controller Val DiGiorgio said that the commissioners should stick to the current policy and not give in to Downey’s demands for inclusion. He said the Freethought Society’s tree had proven “offensive to people of faith” in the past.
Then, Commissioner Kathi Cozzone questioned whether the commissioners should revisit the current policy, which she had originally opposed, and allow any group that wanted to be included to have a spot on the courthouse lawn.
Commissioner Ryan Costello, in questioning Cozzone’s suggestion, stressed that he saw no reason to revise the current policy and would oppose any such motion, stated Rellahan’s story.
According to Mike’s story, the Pastafarians have apparently had an impact on the issue of public displays of religious holiday figures and the role of religion in public policy in recent years.
Most recently, officials in Santa Monica, Calif., decided to do away with holiday displays in a public park because of a dispute between religious groups and local atheists, who were joined by members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And in 2008, the group was given permission to erect a statue of its deity, His Noodly Appendages, on a courthouse lawn in Crossville, Tenn.
In 2007, the group essentially forced school board members in Polk County, Fla., to back down from pushing through curriculum changes to allow teaching of intelligent design, or creationism, in the schools there.
OK, now I know a group that is based on pasta is indeed bugging me.
Indeed it would be nice if we could just leave it at “Peace on Earth,” “Joy to the World” and “Happy Holidays.”
However, it just doesn’t seem to be the way it’s gonna go.
And I get it. Freedom of speech and all that good stuff. I just wish it didn’t leave such a crummy taste in my mouth.
— Andy Hachadorian