In Durham, New Hampshire, leaders are talking about canceling the Christmas tree lighting next year.
The issue is that the town doesn’t allow religious symbols on town property.
The debate is whether a Christmas tree a religious symbol.
At Monday night’s special town meeting, there were a lot of arguments.
“I’m personally in favor of any and all celebrations, I’m not one of those grinches who object to other people’s celebrations,” resident Timothy Horrigan said.
The meeting was called after a Jewish group asked for a menorah display to be allowed by the tree in Memorial Park.
The request was denied, with the town administration citing that they do not allow religious symbols to be displayed on town property.
“It was only a recommendation to the board, that we continue with the longtime current policy of not allowing religious symbolic on city property,” Town Administrator Todd Selig said. “In my mind, that’s best accomplished on private property over public property.”
That’s led to a familiar debate, “Is a Christmas tree a religious symbol?”
“I don’t care if you’re Episcopal, Jewish, Catholic, whatever you are,” resident Toni Landser said. “Everybody is inclusive. I see this tree as a beautiful tradition that people have come to for a long time.”
“All my life Christmas trees have been associated with Christmas, and Christmas is what other people celebrate, but not me because I am Jewish,” resident Deborah said.
Durham’s town administrator said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Christmas trees and images of Santa Claus are secular objects, not religious.
The tree will remain on display for this year, but the town administrator said the arguments Monday night could lead to changes next year.
“Should it only be secular objects, like a tree?” Selig said. “Regardless if you call it a holiday tree or Christmas tree, or should we allow religious symbols as well? That’s a very fair conversation and that’s one the council will have.”