Christmas Tree Vs. Menorah Debate Heats Up In Fort Collins

A holiday decorations dispute involving the Christmas tree and the menorah is heating up in Fort Collins.

Several religious leaders sent an email to the city council on Tuesday urging them to reconsider a decision made in the summer that said the menorah could not be displayed at the city's public holiday display.

The July ruling said the Christmas tree is OK for the city's public holiday display, but the menorah is not.

"I think everyone here is Christian essentially, so a Christmas tree, Santa's workshop and everything associated with it is considered generic, everybody does it," said Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelick. "But that's really not the case."

Gorelick is trying to include a Menorah from the Jewish faith in the city's formal holiday display, but the city council said no.

"Our holiday display policy had been a simple secular Christmas tree," said Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson.

On Friday, as in years past, the Christmas tree display will go up on city property as part of the Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority's annual event where Santa's workshop and angels reside.

"According to our attorney, the tree is secular, the menorah is not," said a spokesman of the Downtown Development Authority.

Dictionary.com defines secular symbols as things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual or sacred.

"They are making a decision that is comfortable for them, but quite obviously not reflective of what the average person of Fort Collins wants," said Gorelik. "That's the problem."

Hutchinson said he hopes the city council will reconsider next year.

"I would like to see the holiday symbols be more inclusionary and that's a good way to send a message," said Hutchinson.

The city council had a work session Tuesday night but Hutchinson said they won't rule on this issue because it's not on the agenda.

Gorelik said he has been patient waiting more than a year. He said he might file a lawsuit to force the city's hand.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that Christmas trees, menorahs, and nativity scenes can be displayed on public property and are not in violation of the constitution.