A political activist had a lot of problems with his state capitol building hosting a nativity scene.
So he aired his grievances by displaying his own philosophical feat of strength — and erected a “Festivus” pole, named after a faux holiday made famous in a “Seinfield” episode, that was made out of 6 feet of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans.
Deerfield Beach political blogger Chaz Stevens decided to erect his Festivus pole in the Tallahassee government building for the second straight year as a protest against a nativity scene at the site despite the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.
The pole, in all of its Pabst Blue Ribbon glory, was placed Monday a few feet away from an elaborate nativity scene built by the Florida Prayer Network, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Stevens told the Daily News he came up with the idea for beer cans because it was something that wouldn’t be offensive for children to look at.
“I thought one ridiculous idea deserves another,” he said. “While I thought a manger was ridiculous I needed something (to match it) so I got Festivus.”
This whole thing, I just said no. That’s it. And I’m causing the government to say yes.
The pole is a relic of the fictional holiday created on sitcom “Seinfeld” by George’s father, who railed against the commercialization of Christmas and wanted to make a “Festivus for the rest of us!”
Stevens said he actually had not gotten a lot of negative reaction over the pole – except for people who consider themselves “Festivus purists” who decry his use of beer cans and not a solid piece of metal.
In a podcast about his decision to institute the pole to mock other religious displays, Stevens said the silliness of the gesture was the point.
“It’s supposed to be ridiculous, it’s supposed to be a blight. It’s supposed to be an eyesore. It’s supposed to troll you. It’s supposed to anger a lot of you. That’s what I did. I did it on purpose like that,” he said. “As I said last year, if you can think of a better idea, something that’s more ridiculous, I’m open to that.”
The Festivus pole WCTV Chaz Stevens said the Festivus pole of beer cans was supposed to mock religious nativity scenes.
Courts have ruled government properties can host religious displays but they cannot discriminate. This has left some government agencies vulnerable to allowing some religious displays they probably hadn’t envisioned.
In Michigan, the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple has been approved to host a display on the lawn of the capitol building in Lansing from Dec. 21 to Dec. 23. The scene will feature a snake wrapped around the Satanic cross and will present a book as a holiday gift.
“Just as the Nativity represents a mythology of the birth of Christ, the Snake is symbolic of the birth of human enlightenment and liberation,” the group posted on its Facebook page. “Happy Holidays from The Satanic Temple of Detroit!”
The building may actually not have a nativity scene this year because the person who volunteered to do one was from out of state and unable to meet the daily maintenance requirements, reports TV station WZZM.
The Satanic Temple will also have a display in the Florida capitol’s rotunda after threatening a lawsuit. It will be displayed later this month.
A 6-foot-tall stack of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, built to mark the sitcom-inspired Festivus holiday, returned to the Florida Capitol on Monday for a second year. A 6-foot-tall stack of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, built to mark the sitcom-inspired Festivus holiday, returned to the Florida Capitol on Monday for a second year.
In his podcast, Stevens said the state’s leaders realize they must accept the Festivus pole because “it’s allowed.”
“Respect is a one-way street when it comes to religion,” he said. “I’m supposed to be respectful of your beliefs. But you are giving me no consideration of my beliefs.
“You can say ‘what is your belief, a pile of beer cans?’ No, my belief is anti-religion More specifically religion on government property,” he said.
Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, told the Sentinel she was disappointed by the anti-religion displays.
“They’re here to protest Christ and Christmas,” she told the newspaper. “While I don’t like some of the displays, and I think it’s inappropriate, I’m sad because I think we should look for the hope and the message of love and joy and peace that the holiday does bring.”
I think we should look for the hope and the message of love and joy and peace that the holiday does bring.
But though he has been criticized for his atheist monument, Stevens said there was value in his Festivus pole.
The display can be a teaching moment about the Constitution and an example that not everyone shares one’s beliefs, he said.
“Explain to them freedom of speech. Explain to them freedom of religion — or more specifically freedom of beliefs,” he said. “This whole thing, I just said no. That’s it. And I’m causing the government to say yes.”