Say it ain’t so! The New York town of Bethlehem is being cleansed of all things Christmas…and Hanukkah. Any and all signs of Christmas including a town sign that says Merry Christmas are gone. We can only say Bah Humbug!
That little town in upstate New York shut down any hopes of happy holidays by voting to not display any “Merry Christmas” signs in public — and even taking down a banner for Hanukkah, too.
The holiday hoopla followed apparent anxieties that this town near Albany — which shares a name with the birthplace of Jesus Christ himself — might appear to be favoring one religion over another.
The town for years displayed a Christmas tree and a Menorah in its central Four Corners area, according to the Albany Times-Union. But it drew the line on signs that had any written messages — such as, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.”
One resident, Elena Marcelle, bought a “Merry Christmas” sign for the town several years ago. This year, she said learned the town wasn’t interested in hanging it up as usual. She asked town board members why.
“At first they said it was a traffic distraction,” Marcelle, 47, told the Daily News.
“The second reason is that they were afraid of infringing on constitutional rights.”
But the board had in fact voted to ditch worded displays altogether, meaning a “Happy Hanukkah” sign disappeared too.
This despite a letter sent from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based conservative Christian group, urging Bethlehem to keep its holiday spirit alive.
“The irony is not lost on us that your town’s name is Bethlehem,” the letter said, according to the Times-Union.
Marcelle said she’s amazed the town would mince words over holiday cheer.
“It was just a holiday greeting,” she said about her Christmas sign.
“I didn’t ask to have a nativity scene. It would just recognize that Christmas is a holiday.”
The town has no law on the books banning any kind of holiday display. But town supervisor John Clarkson told The News the town’s attorney warned the board this year that municipalities might get a legal lump of coal over any sign celebrating one holiday in particular.
“We’re a municipality, not a religious entity,” Clarkson said.
“Advocating on behalf of any religion is one of those gray zones you don’t want to get into.”
He said he saw no irony in Bethlehem stepping away from holiday greetings, noting that the town is at least sticking by its Christmas tree and Menorah presentations.
“I would say this little town of Bethlehem still has a really nice, homey holiday display,” he said.