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In protest, Festivus pole put up at Florida Capitol

6:06 PM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
  • Deerfield Beach resident Chaz Stevens and Florida Prayer Network President Pam Olsen speak in the Florida Capitol after Stevens installed a Festivus pole as a holiday display. The pole, made of beer cans, can be seen in the background. / Michael Schwarz
  • Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) holds up a Festivus pole in the 1997 episode of Seinfeld, "The Strike." Image courtesy NBC.
    
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Tallahassee, Florida (Tallahassee Democrat) -- There were no feats of strength and no airing of grievances, just a simple barren pole made of empty beer cans accompanied by the freedom of religion and a defining separation of church and state.

Wednesday the newest addition to the holiday displays in the public spaces of the Florida Capitol, a pole representing the fictitious holiday Festivus, joined a manger depicting the birth of Jesus and a recently removed menorah in celebration of Hanukkah.

The menorah was removed at the end of Hanukkah.

"This is about separation of church and state," Stevens said pointing to various other holiday displays saying they shouldn't be in the Capitol either. "The government shouldn't be in the business of allowing the mixture of church and state."

Stevens, a Deerfield Beach blogger, is erecting the monument -a plot line played out in a 1997 episode of the NBC sitcom "Seinfeld"-after securing the permit from the Department of Management Services and just a week after the nativity scene was installed by the Florida Prayer Network.

In the TV series, character Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) invented the "holiday" in opposition to the commercialism and stress that comes with the holiday season.

Festivus is celebrated on Dec. 23, but the pole will remain in the Capitol until Jan. 3, along with the other holiday displays. It sits opposite a sign from the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Stevens, who drove the 7 hours from his home in Broward County, purports there is no point to adding the display "it's just ridiculous," he said. "This is the most ridiculous thing I could come up with. The only people I'm worried about offending is the Festivus people."

Florida Prayer Network President Pam Olsen, who unveiled the first nativity scene in the Capitol just last week, said she was not shaken by the addition of the Festivus display.

"Do I think it's inappropriate to have beer cans in the Capitol with kids coming in, probably," Olsen said, "but they have freedom of speech to do that. I said that when we put the nativity scene up."

Olsen met Stevens face to face in the rotunda because she wanted to meet him, which led to a mild argument between the two over the placement of religious symbols in a public building.

Stevens was visibly antagonistic.

"I didn't come up here to argue Christ with you," Olsen said. "Thank you for exercising your freedom of speech and your welcome. In your Capitol and mine."

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