The little town of Bethlehem, New York, has decided that there’s no room at the intersection this Christmas season for a “Merry Christmas” sign.
The town traditionally has Christmas and Hanukkah displays at an intersection known as “Four Corners,” including a menorah and Christmas tree.
But this year, officials rejected a sign that says “Merry Christmas” — as well as a “Happy Hanukkah" sign — out of fear of violating the First Amendment, according to Albany’s Times Union newspaper.
A local resident offered to contribute a “Merry Christmas” sign, as she had done in the past, but a lawyer for the town told her that such a sign would violate the separation of church and state.
Lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that represents religious liberty cases, wrote a letter to the town that such signs would not violate the Constitution.
“The irony is not lost on us that your Town’s name is Bethlehem,” ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue wrote.
“No one should fear that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ on a sign like this will violate the Constitution. It does not,” La Rue continued. “The courts, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, have been clear that the government can erect Christmas signs and displays, including even Nativity scenes, without having to fear a constitutional violation.”
The local resident, Elena Marcelle, and ADF have asked the town to reconsider allowing the signs.