The holidays are a difficult balance to strike for the government, said Kimberly Horstmann, a sophomore food and nutritional science major.
“It’s nice to feel the holiday spirit with the lights in Old Town,” she said. “But I don’t want to disregard any religion and make them feel unwelcome. . You don’t see Jewish kids with Christmas trees.”
Horstmann was one of many students interviewed by the Collegian who wasn’t sure exactly where the city should draw the line on holiday decorations. But most said that the city’s decision to allow Christmas trees on public property while denying menorahs seemed unfair.
“I think it’s dumb,” said Shaunta Butler, a sophomore landscape architecture sophomore. “I just think it’s kind of a bias. You see lights and tinsel – you think Christmas.”
The debate has raged intensely in Fort Collins over the past week, focusing the attention of media throughout Colorado on the city. City Council members have defended their decision, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says Christmas trees can be secular.
And allowing religious symbols could lead to even worse dilemmas, council members said – like dozens of religions popping out of the woodwork, all demanding representation in the city’s display.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik sought the city’s permission for the second year in a row to add a menorah to its official holiday display. And for the second year in a row, the city said no to Gorelik, but gave the OK to Christmas trees and Santa Claus – secular symbols.
And to the discomfort of the City Council, the battle has begun anew.
City Councilman Ben Manvel on Sunday expressed his displeasure at the Collegian’s editorial piece last week. Councilwoman Karen Weitkunat opted against commenting on the subject at all on Monday.
Mayor Doug Hutchinson noted that he would rather have seen all of the symbols represented.
“I was the only one who said we should broaden the holiday display and make it more inclusive,” Hutchinson said. He added that he’s going to participate in a menorah-lighting ceremony with Gorelik in Old Town for the second year in a row.
Back at CSU, most students interviewed knew about the debate beforehand.
“I think (Jewish people) should be good with a Christmas tree if we’re good with menorahs,” said Mallory Sall, a sports medicine sophomore who said she was raised Christian.
“I think even though the (Christmas) name’s tacked onto the tree, a tree’s a tree,” said Kevin McPeek, a speech communication junior.
“Just a tree?” he added. “I think it’s fine.”
Editor in chief Brandon Lowrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.