PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — There will be a tree lighting ceremony at the Rhode Island Statehouse after all.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee told WPRO-AM on Tuesday that the formal decision about the event had not been made when his spokeswoman mistakenly told news outlets that there would be no tree lighting ceremony.
A time and date for the event has not been announced. Chafee, an independent, was expected to attend.
Last year, protesters crashed Chafee’s lighting ceremony after he referred to the tree as a ‘‘holiday’’ tree instead of a Christmas tree. Chafee said the term is in keeping with the state’s founding as a sanctuary of religious tolerance. After news of the Christmas kerfuffle spread, thousands of people from around the nation flooded Chafee’s office with calls accusing him of trying to secularize the Christian holiday.
Chafee was in France visiting a software company with offices in Rhode Island when his spokeswoman, Christine Hunsinger, said Monday there were no plans for a lighting ceremony this year. Back at the Statehouse on Tuesday, Chafee said it was a simple miscommunication between staff members and that no decision had been made.
By using ‘‘holiday tree,’’ Chafee said he is trying to be respectful of other religious traditions. He said he is following the lead of his predecessor, former Gov. Don Carcieri, who used both Christmas tree and holiday tree in his correspondence.
‘‘Last year I said to the staff, ‘What did the previous governor do? Whatever the previous governor did, let’s do that,'’’ he said. ‘‘Somehow that erupted into controversy.... I didn’t start the holiday tree. The previous governor did.’’
Chafee said he is a practicing Christian but that as governor he must be sensitive to the religious diversity of Rhode Islanders.
‘‘I call it a Christmas tree at home,’’ he said. ‘‘But we do have to be careful ... this is a public building.’’
The 17-foot-high Statehouse tree came from private property owned by Janice DeFrances, director of the state’s Department of Children, Youth and Families. DeFrances donated the tree to the state.