March 22, 2006 - The Easter Bunny is Evicted from City Hall

(Image courtesy of Flickr)

Wanting to dress up their desk in honor of the upcoming Easter holiday, a City Council secretary innocently decorated it with a cloth bunny, some Easter eggs, and a handmade sign that read “Happy Easter” (purchased with their own money). Little did they know that this simple act would ignite a political firestorm that would reach all corners of the United States (as well as parts of the world). A controversy that would ask the questions "How much PC is too PC?" and "How religious is the Easter Bunny?" among a host of others.

On Wednesday Mar 22, 2006 in an effort to keep from offending non-Christians, the city’s human rights director Tyrone Terrill requested that the Easter Bunny and other decorations be removed from City Hall, feeling that doing so "would be a good thing". In spite of the fact that no one complained, his job was to make sure that the rights of everyone were protected. He was concerned that displaying a "Happy Easter" message would offend the citizens that didn't celebrate the holiday. Opinions of this decision within the building were split, with some feeling that a public building should not cater to any particular religious holiday while others were “a little puzzled how people can be offended” by something as harmless as a bunny and some eggs.

The backlash against the removal came quickly and from all angles - both local and national. Mayor Chris Coleman passed out chocolate eggs at morning meetings and an “anonymous protester” brought candy peeps and placed them around the iconic “Vision of Peace” statue in City Hall - effectively renaming it “Vision of Peeps” (even going as far as to place a laminated sign by the growing pile of chickadee and bunny shaped candies). Local radio station KS95 sent a staffer dressed in a six foot pink bunny suit holding a "Bring Back the Bunny" sign during the "Greg and Cheryl Show" to hand out candy to passersby. National organizations like "The Washington Post", "Forbes", "Fox News". and a host of others would enter the conversation to make sure that they had their say.

The story even made it to the World Wide Web. Opinions stretched beyond the capital city onto the Internet with an AOL poll drawing nearly 35,000 votes on the matter - with 92% of those taking the poll feeling that the bunny should stay. The battle lines (a little strong, let’s go with “opinion lines”) in each instance were drawn around two very different ideas, one believing that Easter represented the Christian Resurrection and should indeed be taken down and another side feeling that the pagan symbol of fertility (the Easter bunny) isn't something to worry too much about. 

Even "Just Born", the company that makes peeps couldn't resist getting into the act, saying in a press statement, “It is a shame that the Easter Bunny hopping through City Hall has created such a disturbance. We are sure that the regal “Vision of Peace” statue does not mind sharing a little glory and spring fever with us - the Peeps."

As the backlash around the country grew stronger, the sense of humor of City Hall stood decidedly firm. Presumably they knew that there was no longer a correct answer to their situation so they chose to have some laughs while they waited for everything to blow over. When asked for his opinion of the bunny removal Mayor Chris Coleman was quoted as saying “Have you ever seen ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’? This is a killer. We had to do something.” Council Member Dan Bostrom also got into the act, wearing a black shirt that read "Where My Peeps At?" and hanging a bunny sign that said "Happy Easter" from his door. Unfortunately it was not all fun and games, Terrill and Council President Kathy Lantry (the person that carried out the request to remove the potentially offending items) were the victims of significant amounts of hate mail, with complaints about their decision coming from as far away as Singapore. Terrill's house was egged.

In the end the National debate became as much about Easter as it was about the origins of the Easter Bunny. The irony of course, lost on few, is that the city of Saint Paul was named for an evangelical Christian convert. Pointing this out in the documentary "Lord Save Us From Your Followers", host Mark Joseph offered an amendment to change the name of the city to New Leningrad. The "O'Reilly Factor" asked on its April 14, 2006 episode if the city should consider re-naming itself 'Citizen Paul' or 'Comrade Paul'.

A short time later all parties seemed to have moved on.

Works Cited:

Saint Paul Pioneer Press March 23-29, 2006
April 14, 2006 edition of the "O'Reilly Factor"
"Lord, Save Us From Your Followers" documentary
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