Controversial “Tree of Knowledge” Branches from Philadelphia to Las Vegas

For Immediate Release

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 16, 2014) How do the godless celebrate the holidays? One way–originating in the Philadelphia area–is with a "Tree of Knowledge," metaphorically plucked from the fabled Garden of Eden and decorated with ornaments made out of the covers of books. Now such a tree has been endorsed by Teller of the famed Penn and Teller magician team and placed prominently in Las Vegas, the city where the team performs at the Rio.

Teller writes: "This boffo tree has the balls to have books."

The group sponsoring the Tree of Knowledge is the Las Vegas Coalition of Reason (Las Vegas CoR), an alliance of five non-theistic (atheist and agnostic) groups in the greater Las Vegas area. With this tree, Las Vegas CoR makes its public launch today.

In Philadelphia, a Tree of Knowledge is on display at the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, downtown—where it has appeared for four years. The tree became a winter symbol for the non-theistic (atheist, agnostic, humanist and freethinker) community in 2007 when it was originally placed on the lawn of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania. There it appeared each year until 2010 when, despite appeals for openness and acceptance, Chester County Commissioners acted to prevent the symbol from continuing as part of the traditional winter holiday display.

The Las Vegas version of the tree is now on public display in the second section of the Magical Forest area of Opportunity Village, along a trail of sponsor trees. Opportunity Village, located at 6300 W. Oakey Blvd. in Las Vegas, is a nonprofit organization serving the intellectually disabled of Southern Nevada. Holiday crowds come from all over Southern Nevada to view the Magical Forest illuminated winter displays.

Margaret Downey, originator of the Tree of Knowledge symbol and president of the Freethought Society, headquartered in Westchester County, said today: "The Tree of Knowledge started as a symbol of inclusion and sharing in this region but has since become a tradition, not just in Southeastern Pennsylvania but around the United States and in other countries. So although it now also appears in Vegas, it won't stay in Vegas; it will continue to expand around the world."

Both the Freethought Society and the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia are cooperating groups within the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason (, an alliance of ten area non-theistic groups that established the model followed by the new Las Vegas Coalition of Reason.

For hi-res images of the Tree of Knowledge, as displayed in Las Vegas, go to . Photos of the current Philadelphia tree, as well as previous versions, can be found at All are free for media use.

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The Las Vegas Coalition of Reason ( serves as a resource for the public and is made up of the Humanist Association of Las Vegas, Las Vegas Atheists, Secular Student Alliance of UNLV, Secular Legal Society of UNLV and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas-Humanists.

The United Coalition of Reason ( exists to raise the visibility and sense of unity among local groups in the community of reason by providing funding and expertise to help them cooperate toward the goal of raising their public visibility.

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For more information contact:

Ray Johnson
Las Vegas Coalition of Reason
(702) 277-8889
[email protected]

Margaret Downey
Freethought Society
[email protected]

Hugh Taft-Morales
Ethical Society of Philadelphia
301-580-1481 (cell)
[email protected]

UnitedCoR’s Executive Director
National Coordinator
The United Coalition of Reason
[email protected]