Ferndale Approves Menorah Display (video)

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Ferndale Approves Menorah Display (video available soon)chazzano game ad

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 15, 2014)

A 13 foot menorah will go up at the Kulick Community Center on Tuesday after Ferndale City Council voted unanimously to approve the Hanukkah holiday display at their Monday city council meeting.

The display will be up from Dec. 16 to Dec. 26, and each night one of the large electric candles will be lit. On Dec. 23 there will be a celebration at the center, hosted by Chazzano Coffee, with coffee and songs to celebrate Hanukkah and the menorah-lighting. The ceremony begins at 6pm.

Rabbi Herschel Finman applied to have the display as part of a special event permit, at a cost of $85, $35 of royal_serviceswhich is the application fee and $50 of which is the recreation rental fee. The electric flames are on a timer, so the only staff time used will be in overseeing the installation and removal.

“When seen, [this] lets the viewer understand that this neighborhood, where the menorah is, is one of tolerance, freedom, liberty, the pursuit of joy and justice,” Finman said.

Religious displays such as this have prompted lawsuits in the past. In 2003 Ferndale City Council voted to put religious displays on hold due to lawsuits in other cities. A city-owned nativity scene was donated to St. James Church following that decision. City Attorney Daniel Christ explained that in 2003 “the opinion based on a Supreme Court cases was that the City nativity scene could be construed as a violation of the first amendment by an endorsement [of a religion by the City].”Detroit_GT_05

The approved menorah display has several differences that help make its legality more clear. For one, the display is brought by a private citizen, not the City. The City would also make the space available for people of other faiths to have their displays, so it would not be seen as an endorsement. Also, having it at the Kulick Community Center instead of the City Hall makes it more distinct that it is not an endorsement.

The discussion went for over half an hour, with Council members clarifying legal points, and setting a foundation to develop an ordinance or policy after the first of the year for religious displays in the future.

Christ explained that in order to comply with the Supreme Court, three factors must be considered: if the gardenfreshADdisplay has a secular purpose, if the principle effect is advancing religion, and if there is an excessive entanglement of government and religion.

Councilperson Mike Lennon stated that by allowing the display they would be “opening Pandora’s box,” but said he would support it “because there will be some legal issues if we don’t, I want to avoid that. I’ll support it for this but after the first of the year we need a policy.”

He also said “I’m all for it, for people to express their beliefs. I too was raised Catholic, therefore I would urge somebody to bring a nativity scene. But if you’ve got a Buddha we’ll put that up if you go through the proper channels.”

Councilperson Greg Pawlica questioned the ties between church and state, noting that he also has an issue with “In God We Trust” printed on money, but ultimately he sided with free speech. “I have to support this request,” he said. “My humanity dictates that. I can’t deny someone the opportunity to express their religious freedom.”

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