By Ann Schrader, The Denver Post
Holiday displays with religious symbols will not be allowed on city property this year, though Golden City Council members agreed Thursday night to discuss future city policy at a later date.
A clause allowing Santa Claus was added to the resolution that the City Council unanimously approved. The amendment continues a 60-year tradition of placing figures of Santa and his reindeer atop the Welcome Arch across Washington Avenue.
“This (the resolution) recognizes the status quo of what the practice has been for a long time,” said Mayor Jacob Smith.
Rabbi Levi Brackman, director of Judaism in the Foothills, asked the city for permission to erect a menorah — a nine-branched candelabrum used during Hanukkah — on city property at 10th Street and Washington Avenue.
The site is next to one of many trees in downtown that are strung with lights.
Brackman said he was “stunned” that the council ignored residents who favored placing a menorah on city property. Since the holiday-neutral proposal came to light this week, Brackman said he has received virulent e-mails.
He said, however, that he was pleased with the Santa provision because “I don’t want to take away anyone else’s tradition. . . . Would you like to be the Jewish guy who causes the removal of Santa?”
City Attorney Dave Williamson said culturally and historically significant displays such as Santa are allowed and don’t mean the city is endorsing a particular religion.
The resolution allows symbols such as snowflakes and icicles. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that lighted trees are primarily secular.
Council members said they will revisit a policy on public-holiday displays, agreeing that the community needs more time to discuss complicated issues.
Resident Steve Bell urged the positive approach of allowing recognized groups to create a “festival of religious expression.”
Others, such as boutique owner Nancy Taylor Mason, worried that people hearing about the controversy “are wondering if there is Christmas in Golden.”
Residents still may put up religious displays on their own property. Events such as the Candlelight Walk and Christmas parade will continue.