Monday, December 03, 2007

Holiday Display Disputes Appear Muted This Year

With three weeks to go, so far this year the "Christmas wars" over municipal holiday displays seem somewhat muted. In Ft. Collins, Colorado, City Council voted 6-1 to permit colored lights and Christmas trees and wreaths on the exterior of city buildings and other city property, but only secular displays and messages inside buildings. It rejected a proposal by a broad-based task force that only white lights, bare garlands and secular symbols such as snowflakes be hung on city property beginning next year. (Tacoma, WA News Tribune, 12/1). On Saturday in Ft. Collins, about 200 people gathered to support Sheriff Jim Alderden who wants to keep religious symbols. Yesterday's Loveland (CO) Reprter-Herald says that the event focused on decorating a 10-foot tall planted Christmas tree. A small Nativity scene and a Menorah were also put on display, all paid for by donated funds. Sheriff Alderen commented: "A sheriff puts up a Christmas tree. Why is that a national news story?"

Meanwhile in Cranston, Rhode Island, backing away from past high profile controversies over religious symbols, new mayor Michael T. Napolitano has opted to merely put up 50,000 white lights and a Christmas tree in the foyer of City Hall. In past years, the City Hall display-- which led to litigation-- included a life-sized nativity scene, a menorah, an inflatable snowman, and 15 flamingos in Santa Claus hats representing the "Church of the Flamingos". (ACLU Release, 2003). (See prior related posting.) Local ACLU director, Steven Brown, said that Napolitano "is doing more to respect religion than the politicians who try to turn Christmas into a political issue."