School Renames Easter Bunny 'Peter Rabbit'

ByABC News via via logo

April 7, 2007 — -- A Rhode Island public school has decided the Easter bunny is too Christian and renamed him Peter Rabbit, and a state legislator is so hopping mad he has introduced an "Easter Bunny Act" to save the bunny's good name.

"Like many Rhode Islanders I'm quite frustrated … by people trying to change traditions that we've held in this country for 150 years, like the Easter bunny," Rhode Island State Rep. Richard Singleton told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition."

The Easter bunny was scheduled to make an appearance at a craft fair on Saturday at Tiverton Middle School in Tiverton, R.I.

But the district's schools Superintendent William Rearick told event organizers to change the bunny's name to Peter Rabbit in "an attempt to be conscious of other people's backgrounds and traditions."

Singleton struck back this week by proposing a bill, nicknamed the "Easter Bunny Act," to stop all local municipalities from changing the name of popular religious and secular symbols like the Easter bunny.

"The underlying theme here is serious," he said. "I don't think a superintendent of schools should have the authority to change something we've held so deeply for 150 years."

Not everyone in Rhode Island, however, believes the Easter bunny is worth fighting for.

"As a Christian symbol, I would say [the Easter bunny] is not one of those that I would go to the barricades to defend," Rev. Bernard Healy, the Catholic Diocese of Providence, R.I., said in a statement.

Singleton, however, said the perceived religious symbolism versus its actual religious significance is why it shouldn't be banned.

"The Easter bunny is not a religious symbol," he said. "Why it's being banned doesn't make sense."

The American Civil Liberties Union has also spoken out the issue.

"Public schools should not be promoting Easter celebrations, and to the extent that the school districts try to avoid that problem they are to be commended," Steve Brown, the executive director of the ACLU Rhode Island affiliate, said in a statement.

Singleton, however, dismissed the ACLU's comments.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to what the ACLU says quite frankly," he said. This is "political correctness gone wild. … It's crazy."

Singleton said the bill is meant to protect all traditional and religious symbols for example, if someone wanted to change "the name of the menorah to the candelabra."

The politician isn't positive that Peter Rabbit would have been the right replacement anyway.

"By the way, Peter Rabbit stole cabbages and that's not a good role model for out kids," he joked.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events