November 14, 2008

Golden: Yes To Santa, No To Menorah

"This is a chance for Golden to lead. I want to argue for diversity instead of neutrality. This should be a time to celebrate everything"--Ellene Duffy, Golden

Golden had the vote, and a requested Menorah is out (video):
Santa Claus will ride Golden's historic downtown arch again this holiday season, but an Evergreen rabbi will not be allowed to erect a menorah alongside a 30-foot spruce tree decorated with lights on city property.

The Golden City Council unanimously approved a resolution regarding holiday displays that was amended at the last minute to allow Santa to stay on the downtown arch because of its historical significance.

The ordinance prohibits holiday displays on city property of any religious symbols or symbols associated with a particular religious or cultural tradition.

City officials had amended the resolution to include Santa over concerns that he might be viewed as a religious symbol.

Rabbi Levi Brackman, who addressed council members Thursday night, said he was surprised at the exception in spite of an overwhelming show of support from citizens calling on the council to figure out a way to allow all kinds of religious displays during the Christmas season.

"I am stunned that council completely ignored the citizens here tonight," Brackman said.
It was Rabbi Brackman's request to include a Menorah in the city's holiday display that prompted Thursday's vote. Public sentiment against the ordinance and the city's own promise to study the issue next year means that like the holiday display controversy in Fort Collins, this subject won't be going away anytime soon:
The council passed the ordinance in response to Brackman's request to erect a menorah, a nine-stemmed candelabra that symbolizes the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Council members vowed to revisit the issue this spring to study ways to make holiday displays more inclusive of religious traditions. Mayor Jacob Smith said the council should take its time in making such decisions.

More than 25 citizens addressed the council about the controversy, frequently breaking into applause when speakers exhorted council members to find a way to include holiday displays from all religions. Ellene Duffy, 43, a 14-year Golden resident, described herself as "anti religious" and called on council members to find a way to include all religious views in holiday displays.

"This is a chance for Golden to lead," said Ellene Duffy, 43. "I want to argue for diversity instead of neutrality. This should be a time to celebrate everything."
Not a bad idea from this level-headed resident. Hopefully Golden's vote amounts to more than a knee-jerk reaction to avoid engaging the citizenry on an issue that is clearly important to many from a variety of religious (and even irreligious) beliefs.

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