Bethel Approves 5 Holiday Signs For P.T. Barnum Square
The Bethel Town Board of Selectman approved all 5 sign applications that were submitted for Holiday signs in PT Barnum Square for the holiday season earlier this week.
According to CT Insider, the Christmas creche, the atheist sign, the Menorah, the "Peace" sign and the "Human Light" sign were all approved for display. The approvals were solidified at a special board meeting at the Town Municipal building last night.
Holiday signs in the square became a big issue last year with the controversial proposal to put an atheist organization's sign in the square. The proposed sign would read: "This season, no matter what you celebrate or why, Happy Holidays! - your atheist neighbors."
The sign was eventually approved, and what would follow would be a nine-month debate on how to handle the issue going forward. Essentially, the Town of Bethel would allow any religious or non-religious group who follows the correct sign application process, in accordance with the local code, that is approved to be displayed.
There was a wrinkle, however. if the Town ran out of room in the square, the approved displays would be entered into a lottery. The approvals are done for 2019 and there is room for all the messages so the dreaded lottery will not be necessary.
Everything below is my opinion (Lou Milano) and is not that of I-95 as an organization, nor is it the opinion of our ownership group Townsquare Media:
First and foremost I believe strongly in Freedom of Speech and Expression and at the end of the day, that's where I land. You have to allow people to express their opinion, no matter how terrible you may think it is. However, this never needed to turn into the dog and pony show that it has. Once the atheists insisted on their sign, it was going to become a larger issue, every year and this is the beginning of many more years of debate and angst locally.
I feel bad for the the town officials who have to deal with this problem. I think they handled it with care and professionalism last year and this year. In fact, we had First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker on the show last year and he navigated tricky waters with great attention and an eye on the law. The municipality will never again be able to please everyone on this matter.
I can see how the appearance of an atheist sign in the middle of Town might have bothered local religious organizations. To me, if they (atheists) don't believe in a God or Gods, if they believe religion is a set of pointless rituals and symbols, then they should act accordingly. If it represents nothing to you, why let it bother you? That's what happened, no matter what anyone says publicly, local atheists were mad that these religious groups, would "push their religion" on others. That's how they would say it, if they would admit it made them mad but they never will.
That's where the battle of wills began and it will never end, never. This year it's five signs, next year seven, eventually Bethel runs out of room in the square and they have this lottery they are talking about. Someone will be left out, that group will say the lottery was rigged and it gets worse from there. There are more lawyers, court dates, people marching all over the square before, during and after the holidays.
This will never be undone, it's just like trying to keep things fair, for children, it never works. Good luck to the folks in Bethel that have to make these decisions and good luck to the residents with the downfield vision to steer clear of the issue and mind their business.
If I were a religious leader in Bethel or someone associated with a religious organization that wanted a display in Bethel, I'd back out of the square. The issue and square, have become a circus the last two years so the "high road" is elsewhere. I'd take it a step further, get all the religious organizations on the same page and back out, as a group. Let P.T. Barnum Square become "atheist square." Instead of posting your display there, put the largest display, allowed by law on the private property of your congregation. It's really the only way to win this contest and that is what it has become.
As for me, I'll soak this issue for every ounce of content I can, hell, I hope it intensifies. There is nothing better than watching people lose their minds over things that are not going to hurt/benefit them in any way.
The video below was taken prior to the Town's decision to approve the signs. It was also taken prior to me refreshing, myself on the information I wrote on the matter last year. It simply lacks information but I had fun and got to hang out in Bethel, a town I like very much.