Some conservative Oklahoma legislators are upset about the planned installation of a Festivus pole in LGBT pride colors in the state capitol, calling it a mockery of Christianity and a sign of the alleged "war on Christmas."
Meanwhile, the man behind the poles says he has received approvals to display them in Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington State, in addition to Florida, where he is based.
The rainbow poles were created by Chaz Stevens, an activist for LGBT rights and separation of church and state through a group called the Humanity Fund. He installed a plain Festivus pole in the Florida capitol in 2013, when the presence of a Nativity scene in the capitol prompted many applications for alternative displays representing non-Christian religions, or no religion at all. He recently received approval to put up the rainbow pole there next week.
Festivus is a holiday observed by the Costanza family on Seinfeld. The "holiday for the rest of us" is marked by feats of strength and airing of grievances. The father of one of the show's writers had created the holiday for his family years earlier. This year, Stevens was inspired to deck the pole in rainbow colors and top it with a disco ball as a way to "collectively and jubilantly" protest those who would undo marriage equality.
That's not sitting well with some in Oklahoma, where Stevens this week received approval to display a rainbow pole in the capitol building in Oklahoma City. It's set to go up Wednesday, but a group of Republican lawmakers have issued a statement opposing it.
"While a lot of us may have liked the Seinfeld series, this effort to mock the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, does not illustrate the best judgment of those who manage our state capitol," said Rep. Lewis Moore, according to Oklahoma City TV station KOCO. "To Christians, the rainbow is God's promise not to destroy the earth again by flood, as found in Genesis 9:12-17. This sacrilegious symbol wrapped in the gay rights flag is not respectful of God or the many visitors, including children, who arrive by the school bus load during this time of year to celebrate the peace and joy and remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins."
Rep. David Brumbaugh added, "Just because something meets the legal criteria, doesn't mean that it is wise to approve every request. This is just another example of the continued war on Christmas. The people who approved this should have exercised better judgment."
And another representative, John Bennett, said the "gay pride symbol" is a sign of "hostility and intolerance toward our Christian beliefs," according to the station. "Oklahomans should be outraged and call on the gay symbol to be removed," he continued.
Georgia state officials have approved the rainbow pole for display next Wednesday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Stevens and his group "made a request and they met the criteria," Steve Stancil, head of the Georgia Building Authority, told the paper.
"Why Georgia? Really? Why not, given Georgia's historical tolerance for differing views (wink)," Stevens wrote in an email, according to the Journal-Constitution. "If anyone in the South could use an erection, it's those Confederate flag waving lunkheads."
At least one conservative Georgia lawmaker is taking the pole's installation with good humor. "If they want to put their rainbow pole up by the Christmas tree, go for it. I'm sure it will look nice in the disco ball's reflection," Rep. Jason Spencer told the paper. "Come one, come all. The more the merrier."
Stevens's group and the rainbow pole will visit the Michigan capitol in Lansing Monday, reports MLive, a site for several newspapers in the state. "It's a celebration of the Supreme Court ruling allowing for same-sex marriage, and it's a pushback against Christian privilege," Stevens told MLive. "People talk about the war on Christmas, but we call it a war on Christian privilege. Where we see a Nativity, we're going to put up these poles."
A rainbow Festivus pole will also go up in the Illinois state capitol Monday, and Stevens said he has received approval in Washington State as well. He has applications pending in other states. He was rejected by Arkansas, where state officials cited concerns about trademark violations and how the pole would be secured to keep it from falling.