Public property should not be used for religious events. This is not to say, that I do not believe in these symbols and the beauty of their meanings. I love seeing churches with beautiful crèches on the church steps, and Hannukiah’s (the 7 branched menorah with an extra candle holder for the shamash) glistening in the windows of synagogues and private homes. The African Kinara, seven-branched candleholders in the colors of Africa, should glow in homes and churches as well. Our religious symbols do not belong together at the train station or town center- all of which are public property. There is a time and a place.
As a kid, I was very cognizant of the law and not breaking one. I waited for lights to tell me to cross the street. I have never received a ticket for speeding, maybe one or two for parking. I believe that laws are there for a reason. I even though about becoming a lawyer for a short moment because I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice.
When I was a child, prayer was taken from school and replaced with the national anthem. Sudbury, Massachusetts was decorated with Christmas themed symbols and Santa rode through the streets on a fire engine. I remember the excitement clearly. One day it was there, the next year the town was decorated with lit snowflakes and candy canes. The only religious symbols were found on private property, religious institutions and in private homes.
The United States was formed on the principle of separation of church and state.
John Dickinson, one of our Founding Fathers, wrote in 1768 before the Revolutionary War that, “ Religion and Government are certainly very different Things, instituted for different Ends; the design of one being to promote our temporal Happiness; the design of the other to procure the Favor of God, and thereby the Salvation of our Souls. While these are kept distinct and apart, the Peace and welfare of Society is preserved, and the Ends of both are answered. By mixing them together, feuds, animosities and persecutions have been raised, which have deluged the World in Blood, and disgraced human Nature.” (John Dickinson, Pennsylvania Journal, May 12, 1768, reprinted in The Founders on Religion, ed. James H. Huston (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 60–61.)
John Dickenson was commenting on one of the major issues of his day, the ability of the Government to appoint Bishops and other church officials. Could you imagine if this was voted into law? The concept of separation of church and state is suggested from the words of the First Amendment although it is not in our constitution.
Layer after layer built upon the Declaration of Independence, does in fact declare that it is illegal to worship in public. There are too many cases to count.
I am a Rabbi who believes in building deep interfaith relationships. Relationships such as this, cannot be formed in one night, they require commitment and education. I plan to work with other churches and mosques in the area to help us understand that we bleed the same blood and have the same hearts, our beliefs and value regarding human behavior are the same. Our difference is in how we worship.
I look forward to coming to your churches to see the beautiful expressions of Christmas and Kwanza. I am excited to visit your Mosques and learn about our deep commonalities. I am excited to light the lights of Hannukah and see the faces’ of those I love reflected in the light. All of these will I do, but not on public property.
So you will not see me in attendance of the Town Celebration of the Winter Holidays. I try to do my best in upholding the law and this law is crucial for me, especially in light of all that is happening in our world.