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Originally published Monday, August 24, 2009 at 4:22 PM

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Wash. bans Capitol holiday displays, tree to stay

The Christmas tree can stay - but no more Nativity scene.

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. —

The Christmas tree can stay - but no more Nativity scene.

That's the word from Washington's Capitol, where protests erupted last winter over competing private holiday displays.

The furor focused on an atheist placard, which said that religion was "myth and superstition." It was stolen and recovered, and hundreds came to a protest rally.

The atheists were responding to a private Nativity scene, which was set up next to a long-standing Christmas tree.

But a new temporary rule announced Monday says private groups can't leave behind any displays after they're done with a demonstration.

The so-called "Holiday Tree" will stay, because the state is taking it over from the previous sponsors. Officials hope to have a permanent rule in place later this year.

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