Commentary: Time to dump holiday displays at Capitol

Officials at the state Department of General Administration desperately want out of the Christmas wars, and who could blame them?

The agency has had the dubious pleasure of refereeing the annual ritual of rival creeds jockeying for space at the state Capitol in the hopes of outdoing one another.

It began in 2006 with a real estate agent's spur-of-the-moment request to erect a Nativity scene alongside the Capitol rotunda's holiday tree and menorah just three working days before Christmas.

The state's hasty decision to deny his request landed Washington in court and resulted in a legal settlement that spurred an open season on the Legislative Building's marbled halls.

In 2008, an atheist group applied for a permit to put up a sign that read, in part: "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." Then came the requests to erect a "Santa Claus will take you to hell" message, a display depicting "The Spaghetti Monster," a sign offering blessings on all people and a Festivus pole inspired by "Seinfeld."

In December, General Administration called a much-needed time-out to rework the state's policy. It's back now with proposed rules to put a damper on the escalating madness.

Under the new rules, residents and organizations would be permitted to place displays or exhibits on Capitol Campus grounds, but not in the public areas of campus buildings.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.