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December 22, 1989 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I NEWS I

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— YOUR OLDSMOBILE DEALER
WRAPS UP 1989 WITH...

U.S. Appeals Court Bans
Solitary Menorah Display

ALLISON KAPLAN

Special to The Jewish News

A

federal appeals
court's ruling Dec. 12
that it was un-
constitutional to put up a
menorah in a public park in
Burlington, Vt., has pleased
those Jewish organizations
that oppose the display of
any religious symbols on
public property.
But it came as a disap-
pointment to the Chabad-
Lubavitch movement, which
put up the menorah and won
an important case concern-
ing a menorah in Pittsburgh
earlier this year.
The decision overturned a
federal district court's ruling
in Vermont, which per-
mitted the City of Burl-
ington to allow the 16- foot
menorah to stand on public
ground.
The menorah, which held a
sign reading "Happy

The judges wrote
that, like the
creche, the
menorah was
"clearly a religious
symbol."

Chanukah," had been
displayed in the park adjoin-
ing the City Hall seasonally
since 1986. The city had
given Chabad permission
each year since.
The legal challenge
against the menorah display
came from Burlington's
Reform Rabbi James
Glazier, retired Unitarian
Rev. Robert Senghas and at-
torney Mark Kaplan.
Jewish groups opposing
religious displays on
government property say the
Vermont decision clarifies
the U.S. Supreme Court's in-
tention in July's Allegheny
vs. ACLU ruling.
In the Allegheny decision,
the Supreme Court deter-
mined that a nativity scene
displayed by itself on public
property in Pittsburgh
violated the Constitution's
prohibition against govern-
ment endorsement of
religion.
At the same time, it ruled
that a menorah standing
next to a Christmas tree was
constitutional because it was
part of secular holiday dec-
oration.
"Some people have been

interpreting that decision to
mean that a menorah is a
secular symbol," said Marc
Stern, co- director of the
American Jewish Congress
Commission on Law and So-
cial Action.
However, in the Vermont
ruling, the court said its
decision was based on the
part of the Allegheny ruling
regarding the creche.
The judges wrote that, like
the creche, the menorah was
"clearly a religious symbol."
In keeping with the
Supreme Court decision, it
could not constitutionally be
permitted to stand alone on
public property.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky,
spokesman for the Lubavit-
ch movement, called the rul-
ing "very clearly discrim-
inatory" and said that
Chabad will appeal the case
to the Supreme Court.
The Vermont case is only
one of several disputes
across the country that have
pitted Chabad, whose aim is
to display menorot in promi-
nent locations, against civil
libertarian groups and af-
filiates of such Jewish
organizations as
AJCongress, the Anti-
f Defamation League of
B'nai B'rith, the Reform
movement's Union of
American Hebrew Con-
gregations and various local
Jewish community relations
councils.
Al Vorspan, senior vice
president of the UAHC,
hailed the ruling as "a major
victory for religious freedom
and the separation of church
and state."
"For some years now,"
Vorspan said in a statement
"the Lubavitch movement,
in its zeal to justify the
public display of menorot
during the Chanukah sea-
son, has belittled their
religious significance."
Glazier, the Reform rabbi
of South Burlington's Tem-
ple Sinai, who had been
fighting the menorah
display in court for more
than a year, said in a tele-
phone interview that his
only regret was that the
court chose to rule on the
case in December.
"We were not interested in
pursuing it in the holiday
season," he said. "We wish
[the decision] had occurred
during a less emotional time
of the year." ❑

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Jewish Telegraphic Agency

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

3

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