- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Easter Bunny has become a human rights issue in Minnesota, at least according to the St. Paul City Council.

After the city’s human rights director, Tyrone Terrill, argued “it would be a good thing” to remove all Easter references from City Hall’s lobby, council President Kathy Lantry ordered any displays celebrating the popular holiday be taken down.

According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, the items in question included a cloth rabbit and pastel-colored eggs that read “Happy Easter.”

“People got a little too panicky on this one,” council member David Thune said. “I think people should be encouraged to express their beliefs so long as they are not proselytizing.”

A council secretary purchased the items with her own money and, for more than a decade, has reportedly brought in other holiday items for display.

Mr. Terrill told the Associated Press no one had complained about the recent display.

He told the Star Tribune on Thursday, “My issue was not about the rabbit or the egg, it was the sign on the door that said, ‘Happy Easter.’ We talk about diversity, respect, inclusion. When you put that on the front door of a government office, it could be offensive to someone who’s a Muslim, a Jew, an atheist, what have you. That’s my job to bring it to someone’s attention.”

Mr. Terrill did not respond to calls from The Washington Times, but his voice mail message contains a recorded segment with direct references to Christian scripture — of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Anger regarding the council’s position has resulted in a backlash on both the local and national stages.

Miss Lantry has received dozens of e-mail complaints. Mr. Thune said he has received more than 500 e-mails of which “90 percent of them are in favor of the bunny.”

St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Laura Billings said the city should return the decorations, otherwise, “If we’re not careful, St. Paul is going to end up on ‘The Daily Show’ again.”

The Comedy Central program lampooned St. Paul last year when a “culture” dispute followed the placement of a statue featuring a popular “Peanuts” character in the same park as a statue honoring author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In another incident, Ms. Billings writes in her column that St. Paul reversed its initial response to a 2001 furor over poinsettia flowers with little protest. That year the city initially removed a display of red poinsettias, concerned about the “religious connotations,” but later a council member and local judge relented.

Mr. Thune, however, doesn’t expect the Easter display to return. “I don’t think the secretary was trying to make any kind of statement,” Mr. Thune said. “She has no intention of becoming a martyr.”

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