BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Around a dozen people gathered to spread holiday cheer after they claim ‘Merry Christmas’ signs weren’t allowed to be used to decorate the huge tree in the Town of Bethlehem.
For the past four years, a local woman has donated ‘Merry Christmas’ signs to decorate the huge tree at the Four Corners in Bethlehem. But when it came time to hang the signs again this year, she said she was denied that privilege by Town Supervisor John Clarkson.
“Mr. Clarkson said, ‘No thank you. The display is fine the way it is, and we don’t want any controversy,” Elena Marcelle said. “There’s never been any controversy. The sign has been up there for years.”
Despite the rain, people showed up with Christmas signs of their own at the Four Corners in Bethlehem. They smiled and waved as cars drove by and honked in support. Marcia Wendth, of Bethlehem, said decisions like getting rid of the ‘Merry Christmas’ signs are telling of a dysfunctional society.
“Intolerance,” she said. “We are not building tolerance. We are destroying tolerance by systematically destroying what is the new ethic. Anything else is wrong in our society today.”
It was not an organized protest. It consisted of people in the community who heard of the situation and wanted to spread Christmas cheer. Sign holders said the decision is decisive and not in the spirit of the holidays.
“It’s that time of year where we should help the needy, do for our neighbors that can’t do for themselves,” Marcelle said. “Help the elderly and help the poor and tell people Merry Christmas.”
Supervisor Clarkson said the decision was made to avoid other organizations requesting to post signage. He said they could face questions about the proportionality of the signs.
Clarkson said the following in a statement:
“It is the town attorney’s analysis that it is better to not include signs. That way we can avoid contentious litigation or having the town thrust into controversy over whose signs shall be placed where.”