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Originally published December 3, 2008 at 6:09 PM | Page modified December 3, 2008 at 7:19 PM

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Gregoire's office deluged with calls on atheist sign

An anti-religion sign in the Washington state Capitol has started a firestorm on national television.

OLYMPIA — An anti-religion sign in the Washington state Capitol has started a firestorm on national television.

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly had an eight-minute segment on his show Tuesday night decrying the inclusion of the atheistic sign along with a holiday tree and a Christian nativity scene.

Conservative TV personality O'Reilly called the display "political correctness gone mad" and urged viewers to call Gov. Christine Gregoire's office to complain.

Gregoire spokesman Pearse Edwards says the office has been getting about 200 calls an hour, as well as e-mails.

The Capitol has had a holiday tree, provided by the Association of Washington Business, for 19 years. In 2006, it was joined by a menorah sponsored by a Seattle Jewish group.

That prompted a lawmaker from Spokane to stage a protest at the Capitol, demanding the holiday tree be called a "Christmas tree." It also led a local real estate agent to sue the state to allow the nativity display depicting the birth of Jesus.

Gregoire, a Democrat, and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna put out a joint statement Wednesday noting that the federal lawsuit led the state to create a policy allowing groups to sponsor a display "regardless of that individual's or group's views."

"The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution's First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of nonbelievers," the statement said.

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