Neighbors Oppose Massive Light Display

ksm-boyink-lights-2jpg-eaefdc184765101b_largeMichigan — Some Spring Lake Township residents are saying ho ho “no” to the Holiday Road Christmas light show.

The future of the show, whose organizer says is the second largest of its kind in the nation, will be the subject of a mediation meeting Tuesday between residents who support the holiday event, and those who feel the excessive traffic it attracts are an imposition on the neighborhood in the area of Heather Court.

Neighborhood resident Brad Boyink, who organized last year’s Nov. 26-Dec. 26 show, invested $35,000 of his own money to help decorate all 14 houses on the quiet cul-de-sac. More than 200,000 LED lights and holiday props were featured in the show, which Boyink synchronized to music.

The show ran seven evenings a week last year, and Boyink said it raised $33,500 in donations from attendees for the Spread the Music Foundation, Harbor Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity.

This year, however, some neighbors want the show moved elsewhere.

In a public letter, Heather Court resident Megan Martin said that nearly half the Heather Court/Hardwood Lane residents “no longer wish to support the event,” in addition to others from West Spring Lake and Van Wagoner roads.

“This is not an argument over the beauty or content of the…displays, or one’s right to decorate in accordance with their choice of expression, and is especially not an argument over the wonderful benefits this event bestows … but it is an argument over the appropriateness of the location … the invitation itself to thousands of people into our bottleneck subdivision for hours every night for four-five weeks,” the letter reads.

In 2006, Boyink decorated his own house on Heather Court. That first display was a huge success, attended by an estimated 60,000 people. Because traffic was so congested, he teamed up with the Rotary Club to present it on Harbor Island in 2007. It ran there for two years, but because of weather damage, vandalism, and the fact an entire backdrop had to be created for the display, Boyink said he was easily able to convince his entire street to be a part of last year’s show and return it to the neighborhood.

A traffic route was determined that was patrolled by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

In January, after last year’s show, Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash held a meeting for neighborhood representatives, and he said no one voiced opposition.

It was in April, Nash said, that he started hearing concerns. Because of the opposition, a professional mediator was brought in for a meeting Tuesday of all interested parties.

To Boyink, the opposition has seemed to come out of the blue.

“We’ve had meetings to work together as a neighborhood on the logistics and ideas to make it run even more smoothly,” he said. “Some of the changes we’ve discussed included maybe not running it all seven nights a week, but maybe five. We’ve talked about closing the street maybe on Saturdays, our busiest night, making it a walking tour and running a shuttle service to avoid back-ups.

“Our committee has always been willing to work toward compromise. The majority of people on the street want the show, but it seems we can’t seem to work toward neutral ground, as whatever we propose, those opposed won’t budge.”

Nash said the township is working hard to seek a resolution. “I don’t want people who live next door to each other 52 weeks a year not speaking because of one month,” he said.

US Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal of Candy Cane Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear an appeal from some Texas parents who wanted to stop their school district from regulating when students can pass out religious-themed material to classmates.

The court refused to hear an appeal from some parents from the Plano Independent School District.

The district in 2005 told elementary students that religious-themed material could only be passed out before and after school, at recess, at three school parties or at designated tables. Middle and secondary students could add in lunchtime or between classes.

Parents say the policy dilutes the free speech rights of their children.

The candy cane saga started at a school party in December 2004. A 9-year-old boy brought candies that had a religious message that read, in part, “The blood Christ shed for the sins of the world.”

Thomas Elementary School administrators stopped the boy from distributing the candy canes. A year later, the boy’s family and several more whose children also were stopped from distributing religious materials sued the school district.

Several months later, the district revised the more restrictive policy regarding the distribution of materials that was in place at the time. The revised policy permits students to circulate materials only before and after school, at three annual parties, during recess and at designated tables in school. Middle and high school students also can hand out items in hallways and during lunch.

America to Mark 140 Years Since Declaring Christmas a National Holiday

On June 26, 1870 the Congress of the United States declared Christmas — widely recognized then and now as a Christian observance — a national holiday. This weekend marks the 140th anniversary of that declaration.

Christmas in America has always been controversial. Pilgrims arriving on America’s shores didn’t want to observe Christmas due to their conviction that the holiday was tied to more pagan practices than holy observance. They opted instead to honor a day of thanksgiving. Christmas in American history had been noted leading up to and beyond the era of the Revolutionary War — it just didn’t hold widespread signifigance until masses of immigrants from other cultures began to populate her shores.

Traditions of Christmas observance — from Christmas trees to visits by St. Nicholas — were of foreign origin that were popularized through cultural works by Washington Irving, Clement C. Moore and Charles Dickens. Christmas cards became fashionable in the 1840s and Christmas trees started as a tradition in the mid-19th century. Santa Claus made his first public appearances in Philadelphia as early as 1860. All of these elements combined to bring Christmas — viewed then more for its secular popularity than its religious meaning — to the attention of Congress in 1870.

In 1999, a federal court acknowledged the secular aspects of Christmas in rejecting a claim that the holiday impermissibly endorsed and furthered a particular religious belief.

In 2010, it is expected that the modern-media phenomenon known as “the War on Christmas” will inflame as the courts address the recent banning of the “National Day of Prayer” by a federal court as a sign that perhaps Christmas as a declared national holiday might again come under fire.

Baby Jesus Christmas Billboard Stirs Abortion Debate in UK

md_horiz People see Jesus in a lot of things: Shrouds, grilled cheese sandwiches, ultrasounds. And in Britain this December, you’ll be able to see the baby Jesus in a simulation of what his own ultrasound would’ve looked like.

The faux-ultrasound image is part of an ad campaign that will be featured on billboards with the goal of reaching 40 million people. Pro-life groups are celebrating it as a potentially effective abortion deterrent, although the caption only says, “He’s on His way: Christmas starts with Christ.” John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child says, “This advertisement sends a powerful message to everyone in Britain … Whenever we kill an unborn child in an abortion, we are killing Jesus.”

The ad is backed not by the adamantly anti-abortion Catholic Church but by several Protestant Churches, including the Church of England and the Methodist Church. Despite the fact that conversation about the ad has focused on abortion, Mike Elms, vice-chair of the agency that created the ad, claims that it’s not about politics. “We wanted to convey that Christmas starts with Christ.”

Critics disagree. “The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context,” says Terry Sanderson, director of the National Secular Society. “They should go back to angels and cribs.”