Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge is a project led by Margaret Downey. It is on display in the Philadelphia area each year, as a result of a lot of hard work.

Book list on The Tree of Knowledge

Christ out of Christmas article featuring Margaret Downey

The following is a list of books on the Tree of Knowledge that are housed in West Chester, PA in 2007 and will be moved to Philadelphia in 2008.  Philadelphia is the birthplace of the freedom we have today.  Philadelphia, the first US capital, is where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

VIDEO: The Tree of Knowledge 10 mins (by Gregory Walsh) 2008

VIDEO: The Tree of Knowledge 7 mins (by Brian Sapient) 2009

Thoughts from yesterday when we put the tree up:

"The TREE OF KNOWLEDGE is up, installed on the south lawn of the Chester County Courthouse in the heart of West Chester - right next to the creche display. Margaret Downey, Brian Sapient, two brothers, Nicholas and Ian Stark, another young man named Andrew and I worked some five hours in the steady rain and mud but we were successful!" - Carol Everhart Roper on Facebook

[Margaret Downey was] "cold, wet and tired after a full day at the Chester County Courthouse installing the Tree of Knowledge. Time for some hot tea and warm bath. The tree looks great and I am so grateful to the volunteers who helped today. The rain did not deter us." - Margaret Downey on Facebook

Web Commentary Tree of Knowledge

Author: Tony Phyrillas
Date: November 29, 2007

Atheists get their own holiday display

If you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em.

A Southeastern Pennsylvania atheist group that has tried unsuccessfully for years to
prevent public religious displays at Christmas, has decided to try a new tactic. The
atheists, who also failed to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the
Chester County Courthouse, now want to put up their own holiday display next to a
Nativity scene, a Menorah and a Christmas tree in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

News that The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia wants to put up its own
holiday display was first reported by The Daily Local News in West Chester. The
decision by the Chester County commissioners to permit the atheists to display their
"holiday tree" could serve as a seasonal model for other communities, according to
reporter Jennifer Miller.

The new policy allows any group to put up a seasonal display on county property if it
meets design, insurance and safety requirements. That's a far cry from what the atheists
originally wanted: An outright ban on public displays during the holidays.

"It makes us feel like whole citizens to be able to participate in this way," Margaret
Downey, president of the Freethought Society, told the The Daily Local News.

The group's display is entitled "The Tree of Knowledge" and it will feature a 22-foot
evergreen with color copies of book covers as "ornaments." Some of the book covers
will include the Bible, the Quran, Ethics Without God, Why I Am Not a Christian, and
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.

I've heard of the first two books. Not familiar with the atheist tomes.

Chester County's new policy allows qualified applicants to set up a display between
November 30, 2007 and January 15, 2008. The deadline to apply for a display has
already passed, so the atheists are the only new addition to the outdoor display this year.
"If this works here, we're going to encourage other Freethought groups to do the same,"
Downey told The Daily Local News. The county received four applications, and all
were approved. In addition to "The Tree of Knowledge," the courthouse lawn will
feature a Christmas tree, a Menorah and a crèche this year.

In case you'd like to join those fun-loving atheists for a festive tree dedication, The
Freethought Society will hold a "tree ceremony" at 5:00 p.m. Saturday at the
courthouse, located at 2 North High Street, in West Chester.

I've written before ("The left declares war on Christmas") about atheist Grinches trying
to steal Christmas from the 85 percent of Americans who are Christians, but this
appears to be a reasonable compromise.

Celebrate whatever you want, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the
Winter Solstice. More power to the atheists for wanting to display their "Tree of
Knowledge." Just don't mess with Christmas.

Tree of Knowledge 2009

Margaret Downey has found two donors to meet the $5,000 bond requirement to put up The Tree of Knowledge at the Free Speech Zone in Chester County, Pennsylvania. If the application is approved, the tree will be installed on Monday, November 30, 2009. Everyone is welcome to help. Meet at the Chester County Courthouse located at 2 High Street, West Chester. We will get started at 9:00 AM. Will know by Monday, November 23, 2009. The following are two news stories recently published about the Tree of Knowledge for this season. First Request Denied:
"I have no objection to the Freethought Society putting a banner up," said Councilwoman Carolyn Comitta. "My only concern is that it promote a community event, and I don't see this banner doing that." Council President Sue Bayne said that, if the banner read "Happy Holidays from the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia," it would be probably be acceptable. The holidays, Bayne said, could reasonably be defined as a community event. Borough Manager Ernie McNeely said that, if the sign instead ended with "Please visit our Tree of Knowledge display on the courthouse lawn," it might be acceptable. The Tree of Knowledge, McNeely said, is at least physically within the borough. Margaret Downey, the founder of the Freethought Society, said that she might try again to have a banner put up. She said that she will reconsider the wording of the banner. And, she said, she will consider holding an event that the banner could advertise. "This time, we might consider holding a particular event, such as Human Light," Downey said. She said that "Human Light" would be a "humanistic celebration of the season" and would feature guest speakers, socializing, and refreshments.
Chester County Commissioners Adopt Holiday Display Rules:
On Tuesday, Downey had appeared at the commissioners' work session to complain that the new regulations would unfairly limit the number of organizations that could erect displays to three. She said the rules themselves stated that the purpose of the displays was to promote the diversity of the community. "If the commissioners really care about equality, respect and appreciation of diversity, the problem of irrational display placements should be addressed now," Downey said. She also complained that the traditional Christian créche display was given a spot at the center of the courthouse lawn, pushing her group's "Tree of Knowledge" to the side under trees, when that space could better accommodate the créche. Downey did not appear at Thursday's meeting, and the commissioners did not address her concerns about the placement of the créhe.

Tree of Knowledge 2009 Installation Details

A Special Winter Celebration Invitation! Please join members of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia (FSGP) on Monday, November 30, 2009 at 9:00 AM to help install and decorate FSGP’s 2009 winter display: The Tree of Knowledge The Tree of Knowledge will be placed on the lawn of the Chester County Courthouse located at the corners of High and Market Streets, West Chester, PA 19380. After the morning installation (at approximately 11:30 AM), volunteers will lunch at Kildare’s Irish Pub located at 18 West Gay Street, West Chester, PA 19380. If you miss the day time festivities, please plan to celebrate the spotlighting and opening ceremonies at 5:00 PM at the same location mentioned above. After the ceremony, participants are encouraged to dine together and continue celebrating this historical event. A local restaurant will be selected by those in attendance. Please call if you have any questions: Coordinator: Margaret Downey (610) 793-2737 or (610) 357-9432 Note: The Tree of Knowledge will be on display at the Chester County Courthouse from November 30,2009—January 9, 2010. Please consider earmarking a donation to FSGP in support of this project. FSGP’s mailing address is: FSGP’s Winter Display P. O. Box 242 Pocopson, PA 19366