Following this announcement there were protests by Christian groups who claimed that the tree was a tradition and should not be renamed in the spirit of political correctness. This year, the Governor had announced that the tree lightening ceremony would be canceled completely, however there was much outrage over this fact and he reinstated his plans for a “Holiday Tree.”
Governor Chafee claims that calling the tree a “Holiday Tree” is actually a continuation of Rhode Island tradition dating back to the days of Roger Williams and the original Charter of Rhode Island from 1663. Granted by King Charles II, the document was one of the first declarations in the world which granted full religious freedom; the text reads as follows:
"that no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter shall be any wise molested [harassed], punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of land hereafter mentioned, they behaving themselves peaceable and quietly..."
So significant was this document that early twentieth century historian Thomas Bicknell described it as, “the grandest instrument of human liberty ever constructed.”
Whatever Rhode Island calls the large tree, on December 6 President Obama will continue a tradition officially begun in 1923 when he holds the official lighting ceremony for the National Christmas Tree.