[A "Festivus" pole made of 16 beer cans took its place next to a "freedom from religion" banner Wednesday in the rotunda of the Florida Capitol.
Chaz Stevens, who assembled the marker and got Department of Management Servicespermission to add it to holiday symbols on the Capitol's first floor, said he made the seven-hour drive from his Deerfield Beach home in response to the placement of a Nativity scene last week. A 10-foot menorah was also displayed during Hannukah.
"It's just ridiculous," Stevens said of the displays.
Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, greeted Stevens as she arrived for her usual Wednesday prayer session at the Capitol. Her organization placed the manger scene across the rotunda last week.
“Thank you for exercising your freedom of speech and you're welcome, in your Capitol and mine," she told him.
The bare aluminum Festivus pole gained fame in a 1997 episode of the "Seinfeld" TV show, in which the characters devise the pseudo-holiday "for the rest of us" as a reaction to commercialization of Christmas.
Rather than get involved in legal action over church-state separation, DMS has declared the rotunda a public forum where any expression of belief is welcome. After the Nativity and menorah displays went up, the Freedom From Religion Foundation placed a large sign in the rotunda marking "the Winter Solstice and honoring the Bill of Rights.
Reporter Bill Cotterell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]