The Spiritual State: RIP, Easter Bunny

Palm Beach has become the Wittenberg of America. Now, in its most audacious act of spiritual correctness and mythical animal abuse, the Florida town is nailing the Easter Bunny to the doors of The Gardens mall.

The minority attack on the most benign religious symbols in our culture recently crested in the Ten Commandments case now before the Supreme Court, a display which is supported by almost 80 percent of Americans surveyed, according to one poll. Apparently dissatisfied with taking a position that only 80 percent of the public detest, the enlightened owners of The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach County have apparently succeeded in finding a case which will rally 100 percent of Americans against them.

They have now hunted down and killed, like a mangy dog ... the Easter bunny! This follows the bah humbug performance during Christmas time in which America's marketing geniuses demanded that their employees say "Season's Greetings" rather than the incendiary and divisive "Merry Christmas." Henceforth and forever more, shoppers at The Gardens mall will be greeted by the Garden Bunny and his pagan entourage who will no longer conduct Easter egg hunts in the mall, but rather spiritually generic egg hunts.

Other south Florida malls will also be offering a bounty on the Easter Bunny's head, according to The Palm Beach Post. At the Mall at Wellington Green, the Easter Bunny will assume the alias of Baxter the Bunny and is probably available for Spring Solstice photos with your children. At Town Center in Boca Raton, Peter Rabbit will hand out goodies, which I suspect may include the severed head of the Easter Bunny.

I am pleased to report that the Easter Bunny has received sanctuary at the Boynton Beach Mall and at Treasure Coast Square in Jensen Beach, but there are SWAT teams surrounding those shopping centers in case that rascally rabbit decides to make a run for it. The Palm Beach Mall has no bunny at all. Word is he was killed when he walked to Winn-Dixie for a carrot lunch.

The manager of the Boynton Beach Mall has expressed her apologies and shame for not terminating the Easter Bunny. "I suppose the name Easter Bunny is fairly unusual," she told the Post. "We have Easter eggs too. I know it's probably not the popular thing to call it." One of the other mall managers said, "Because we're such a multicultural community, it's good just to remain neutral." I don't know about you, but I for one feel safer now knowing that at least in one enlightened community in this great and pious land, we have citizens who are willing to stand up for the fundamental principal upon which our nation was founded: the separation of bunny and state.

The noble cause of the separation of church and state is trivialized, not upheld or ennobled by this insane and obsessive oryctolagusphopia (fear of bunnies). The Easter Bunny has as much religious significance as a Hanukah bush. It is a pagan fertility symbol tied by the slenderest of chocolate threads to the new life symbolized by the Resurrection. The steps leading from the Easter Bunny to the establishment of a national religion (Bunnyism?) are long and twisting indeed.

So in the pursuit of that neutrality which seems to regard all religions with equal contempt, I offer up some suggestions to the mall owners of south Florida as to their next targets:

Passover matzohs blur the constitutional line separating cracker and state, and should be renamed "Getting-the-hell-out-of-Egypt flat bread." Also public greetings of "Happy Passover" should be replaced with, "Glad you (or we) got the hell out of there." For those who feel uncomfortable saying "hell," please feel free to substitute "heck."

For our Muslim brothers and sisters we have good news for you too. Ramadan, the month-long fast, will also be a forbidden word because of its religious overtones. Instead of wishing each other "Ramadan Mubarak" (Happy Ramadan), Muslims in Palm Beach County should be asked, at least while they are shopping, to wish each other "Happy no-lunch month." After you say it a few times, the Palm Beach official in charge of language purification tells me, it has a rather nice ring to it--especially in Arabic.

I look forward also to seeing the public display outside the Palm Beach County Courthouse of "The Ten Suggestions." I await the public display of Michelangelo's pieta renamed "Dead guy and his mommy." And of course the children of Palm Beach ought to be prepped for the arrival (along with their grandparents) next winter of the beloved Solstice Claus in his sleigh pulled by eight tiny endangered arctic herbivores.

Look, the way we greet each other speaks the truth of our roots and our hopes and our joys. You cannot translate these religious and cultural traditions without perverting and distorting and ultimately killing them, and if some child or some adult (almost universally it is the latter) feels deeply offended and marginalized, well then they need to: first, get a life, then send money for tsunami relief, then try to end the slaughter in Darfur, then go out and buy an energy-efficient car, and then try real hard to understand that bumping into your neighbor's customs and faith ought to bring you a sense of warmth, curiosity and compassion--not fear, not revenge and not God help us, Baxter the Garden Bunny. I know this is a long fight and somewhere buried in this insanity, someone must feel that there is some worthy social, constitutional, and moral principal at issue, but I remain both flummoxed and amused at the irrational hatred of religion and religious symbols in our culture--a hatred which remains the last socially acceptable prejudice of our time.

To those who agree with me--both of you--I say, keep up the fight against the insane secularizers of Palm Beach. Remember, it's a bunny-eat-bunny world out there.