Fort Collins Continues to Wring Hands Over Christmas

Fort Collins just doesn’t know what to do about Christmas. First they make national news for banning Christmas decor on public property and then they make it again for bringing it back.

A task force has recommended that the city’s outdoor Christmas displays include secular symbols and greenery but avoid things associated with a specific religious or cultural holiday.
Task force members generally agreed that Christmas trees wouldn’t be among their recommended displays for city property, although their proposal does not mention them by name, said Seth Anthony, a spokesman for the group.

“I expect criticism from people who feel like we are taking Christmas away. And I expect we will get criticism from people who think educational display endorses religions,” Anthony said.

“(But) to the extent we can, recognizing that offending no one will be impossible, we want to be inclusive.” The complete recommendations have not been made public. The City Council is expected to vote on them Nov. 20. They would take effect in 2008.

The task force, made up of people from religious groups, businesses and community organizations, has been reviewing the city’s existing holiday display policy for two months.

The current policy says outdoor displays on city property may have white and colored lights and wreaths, garlands or other foliage. The policy, adopted in 2006 after a rabbi asked to include a menorah in a display on city property, was based primarily on what the city had customarily done at Christmas.

The City Council set up the task force this year and asked it to review the policy and recommend possible changes.

“As far as I’m concerned, the group ended up in a very fair place in which primarily secular symbols will be used on city property,” task force member Saul Hopper said.

Anthony said the city-owned Fort Collins Museum could continue to include lighted trees in its outdoor display under the recommendations. He said the task force suggested the museum’s display include religious and cultural symbols associated with a variety of winter holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

The Downtown Development Authority’s annual Christmas tree lighting would not be covered by the recommendation because its display is on private property.

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