Holiday hang up
In December, Port of Seattle officials decided to remove several Christmas trees from public areas in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in response to a threatened lawsuit by a rabbi who wanted to display a menorah along with the trees. Port officials said they wanted to wait until after the holidays to address the issue. The trees were replaced after members of the public, including the rabbi who had made the original complaint, expressed outrage.
American City & County asked readers of its weekly e-mail newsletter if the Seattle Port Authority handled the situation appropriately. Below are some of the responses:
“The Port of Seattle did exactly the right thing. No governing body should allow itself to be blackmailed by any outside entity. It was a common practice for the port to display holiday trees, and if the rabbi had an objection, he had 11 months to air those objections and a decision could have easily been made in the months prior. To wait until they were put on display just shows it was a publicity stunt and an attempt at blackmail.”
— Tim Fulton, professional supervisor for the South Florida Water Management District, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“The Christmas tree merely represents a season and does not represent a religious sect. It has been a symbol of joy for centuries. This joy means different things for different individuals. On the other hand, the menorah does represent a particular sect and holiday, and if displayed, consideration should also be given to other religious sects celebrating during this season.”
— Michael Hauer, purchasing acquisition manager, Collier County, Fla.
“Once again, [this is] a perfect example of a knee-jerk reaction to a public outcry! Just because a religious leader’s feelings are hurt, the [airport] can’t display trees without equal representation from all other religious groups? I say, ‘Rabbi, grow some thicker skin! You’re going to waste taxpayers’ time and money to file a lawsuit? For what, to make your congregation feel better? What would you gain by this?’”
— Jeff Nafziger, environmental health specialist, Navajo County, Ariz., Public Health Department