Bethel Set to Review Holiday Displays Following Last Year’s Debate
You may remember that Bethel, CT took front and center in the local media last year around the holidays. The issue at hand was in regards to holiday signage in PT Barnum Square.
For many years, local religious groups would put holiday signs in the square, and as we reported last year, an Atheist organization petitioned the Town of Bethel to do the same. At the time, the Atheist organization wanted to put up a sign that would read: "This season, no matter what you celebrate or why, Happy Holidays! - your atheist neighbors."
Bethel eventually allowed the atheist sign, and First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker did a great job navigating tricky religious waters and dealing with the media. We even had him on the Ethan and Lou Show back then to discuss the issue.
Then, nine months of debate and planning went into the issue to develop a plan for this coming holiday season. Basically, any religious or non-religious group who follows the correct sign application process, in accordance with the local code, that is approved, would be able to display a holiday sign in the local square. There is one wrinkle: if so many organizations apply that there is not enough room for all of them, the approved signs will be entered into a lottery.
Now, according to Patch, the Town of Bethel is reviewing applications for signs from five local groups. There's an application for the Christmas creche that has gone up year after year, the atheist sign application is back again and is being reviewed, and three more are in the review process. One is a sign that would read "Peace," then another would be a six-foot Menorah, and finally, there is a sign application for a banner that says "Human Light." That one is from a group that celebrates a secular humanist holiday.
There is a special town meeting tonight (November 19) in Room A of the municipal center to discuss the issue that begins at 6:30 pm.
Town officials say they are pretty sure that all five banners will fit in P.T. Barnum Square.
Freedom of Expression is covered under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is defined as the right to express one's ideas and opinions freely through speech, writing, and other forms of communication but without deliberately causing harm to others' character and/or reputation by false or misleading statements.