Resident Opposes Religious Symbols on Town Property

The Menorah lighting on the Town Green offends former Town Councilman Chris Catropa as a libertarian and an atheist.

To the Editor:

I write this letter in opposition to the Menorah lighting on Monroe's Town Green tomorrow. Religious symbols on public land using taxpayer dollars violates the Constitution and individual freedoms. This offends me as a citizen of Monroe just as much as it offends me as a libertarian and an atheist.

Martin Luther was a major influence on how our founding fathers thought about separation of Church and State. Luther believed that every individual should form his own relationship relative to God. He knew that this relationship should not be left up to the Government to force upon us. The founding fathers put this notion into our Constitution with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

A Menorah is a religious symbol (not unlike a Nativity scene would be) with religious significance that has no right being on public property that my tax money goes towards.

If there is an individual volunteer in Monroe who would like to place this Menorah on private property, then I say bravo! Display it with pride and in all its beauty. But these religious symbols have no place in our town square. It violates the separation of church and state and our individual rights as citizens of Monroe. We all have different beliefs in Monroe. Some are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists and a variety of other faiths. All should be respected. Our government should be a secular place for all to enjoy.

I have contacted the Libertarian Party of Connecticut, the American Atheists and the Connecticut ACLU to join me in this fight. I hope that more residents will join me in honoring the separation of church and state and let Monroe Town Hall see that religious symbolism on government land, or funded in any way by taxpayer dollars, should not be allowed.

Chris Catropa,

Monroe Resident

John F. December 13, 2012 at 09:01 PM
What? No one has complained of the lights up in Wolfe Park?! TAKE DOWN ALL OF THOSE LIGHTS!!!!!!
jim laguardia December 13, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Ok so why THIS symbol?? Why NOW??
sebastian dangerfield December 13, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Lights are religious?
Tman December 13, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Chris Catropa...God bless you
Alex December 13, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Establishment Clause? Allegheny vs ACLU? This has been settled already. Haven't seen the display but if there's ONLY a menorah and no other displays and this is on state property then the ACLU need only bring a lawsuit against the town to take it down or add other holiday decorations to make it secular.
anon December 13, 2012 at 10:58 PM
everyone, could we please take a moment to agree to disagree ... as i am typing there is a young couple in the middle of a wake for their 5 year old little girl who died due to post surgical complications after an elective out-patient surgery ... she was perfectly healthy except for a speech problem ... this is a tragedy ... not whether we should have a Christmas tree or any other religious symbol on town property or not ... i am not trying to make anyone feel badly for their personal views ... just to please take a moment and put things into perspective and realize what is really important in life ... thank you, sincerely
jim laguardia December 13, 2012 at 11:50 PM
I find it very hard to believe the author of this letter has NEVER posted any comments on the Patch before.... Is it that or maybe he posts his "opinions" under an assumed name usually ??
Glynn brennan December 14, 2012 at 01:00 AM
If the White house can have many CHRISTMAS trees; Monroe should be allowed a Menorah! Happy holidays!
Rich December 14, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Neither The Constitution or the bill of rights has guidelines other than that there shall be no "established government religion. This was not done to eliminate religion but to eliminate religious persecution by a state established religion.
Rich December 14, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Have you ever read the constitution? Please read it with an open mind.
Josh December 14, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Sean- I just saw your post, and while i respect your defense of someone you may know very well, when someone has two religious symbols in front of them and only picks one to be against, im sorry - but they are defining themselves as anti that - and that symbol happens to be an important symbol to many Jewish people. He didnt say he wanted the Chrismas tree removed.
Brian McMahon December 14, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Part 1 I am not a particularly religious person. I don’t know Chris Catropa. I’ve never met or spoken to him but I am familiar with him from his time on the Town Council. I recall him being one of the more principled and independent Council members. The above said, I disagree with the opinion in his letter. I think the separation of church and state was intended to prevent government from influencing how individuals worship. I’ve just never felt that religious displays on public property were a threat to that. A Christmas tree, menorah or any other religious symbol on town property simply doesn’t bother me. While I disagree with his opinion, I do appreciate and admire that he had the courage to write the letter and then defend it without letting himself be reduced to the type of discourse that’s become too common on this site. I’ve read and re-read the original letter several times as well as all of the comments below it which include several comments from Mr. Catropa himself. I would encourage everyone else to go back and do the same. I do not find a single incendiary or confrontational word or statement written by him. His entire letter and all his subsequent comments were courteous and, in my opinion, completely genuine. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for many (not all) of the other posts.
Brian McMahon December 14, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Part 2 As I read the posts on this string, I see that Mr. Catropa has been labeled disingenuous, insecure, a complainer, Anti Semitic, narrow minded and mean spirited to name a few. He’s also been told to “get a life” and to “focus on those in need” such as those at the food pantry….as if writing this letter must make him incapable of being charitable or having compassion for the needy. He was accused of spewing “high minded venom” and was actually compared to Hitler….that’s right….HITLER!!! Thanks for finally removing the post Bill. One poster implored Mr. Catropa to “do some good rather than contribute to the dysfunctionality that exists in this country”. Again, everyone please go back and re-read the letter and all the posts and ask yourselves if Mr. Catropa is the dysfunctional one. Whether you agree with him or not is irrelevant.
Brian McMahon December 14, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Part 3 The fact that someone can’t offer and defend an opinion in a civil manner like Chris has done here without being trashed is discouraging. I used to be an avid Patch follower but now only follow it occasionally. I have very rarely posted on it. It has become more of a regional outlet and I’m turned off by direction the discussions….if you can call them that….have taken. Finally, to Jim Laguardia, who I don’t know but who I can see is something of the poster child (pun intended) for the Monroe Patch. I have a comment, a question and a suggestion for you since you post so often and since yours was the very first comment in response to the letter. I believe that initial comment to Mr. Catropa was simply….”Get a life”. First, while I can’t think of a single post of yours that I have ever agreed with, I do appreciate that you use your name and not a pseudonym. Second, given all of the time that you spend posting on this site, did the irony of you, of all people, actually suggesting to someone else that THEY “get a life” escape you? Finally, I suggest you post less and think about what you write more. I think it might help your credibility. The problem is far from limited to just you Jim. You’re just a convenient example. Happy Holidays to ALL!
Rabbi Stock December 14, 2012 at 03:04 AM
County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989), was a US Supreme Court case in which the Court considered the constitutionality of two recurring holiday displays located on public property in downtown Pittsburgh. The first, a nativity scene, was placed on the grand staircase of the Allegheny County Courthouse. The second of the holiday displays in question was an 18-foot Hanukkah menorah, which was placed just outside the City-County Building next to the city's 45-foot decorated Christmas tree. The legality of the Christmas tree display was not considered in this case. In a complex and fragmented decision, the majority held that the County of Allegheny violated the Establishment Clause by displaying a crèche in the county courthouse, because the "principle or primary effect" of the display was to advance religion within the meaning of Lemon v. Kurtzman, when viewed in its overall context. Moreover, in contrast to Lynch v. Donnelly, nothing in the crèche’s setting detracted from that message. A different majority held that the menorah display did not have the prohibited effect of endorsing religion, given its "particular physical setting". Its combined display with a Christmas tree and a sign saluting liberty did not impermissibly endorse both the Christian and Jewish faiths, but simply recognized that both Christmas and Hanukkah are part of the same winter-holiday season, which, the court found, has attained a secular status in U.S. society.
Voice of Reason December 14, 2012 at 03:52 AM
And thus the circus atmosphere stigma of Monroe continues. Amazes me how some people choose to focus their energy. Adopt a needy family this Christmas? Na, let's organize a "fight" against the menorah lighting.
Bob d December 14, 2012 at 04:38 AM
I am so sick of the vocal minority running the show now. It's time for the silent majority to stand up and tell these cry babies like chris to go away.
MikeD December 14, 2012 at 11:43 AM
After reading this letter and the comments I would like to share my thoughts. The author of this letter claims separation of church and state as motive behind this letter. I call BS, and here are my reasons. The opening statement speaks of opposition to the menorah, not the tree or a nativity scene (although it is mentioned later). The author also reccomends moving the menorah to private property, again, nothing about relocating the tree or nativity. The timing on this letter doesn't help either. It seems like only became an issue for him when they decided to add the menorah. If he were truly motivated by separation, his time and energy would be better spent on more important topics. He mentioned in a comment he crosses of "in God we trust on his money, why not petition the government about that? And while he's at it, what about the fact that municipal employees get paid (with tax dollars) for religious holidays such as good Friday and Christmas. Or thy fact the those holidays are also recognized by the schools and children only have some, but not all religious holidays off. I just find it hard to believe that none of the major topics bother him but a few measly cost free decorations displayed on some relatively unused town land are a big concern for him.
Gerald M. Gaynor December 14, 2012 at 12:24 PM
The problem with atheists is that they wrongfully believe that they have a right to be “protected” from acknowledging that the vast majority of Americans are people if faith. They don’t understand the Separation Clause and they insist on forcing their narrow minded lack of faith on the rest of us. Perhaps there has been a down-side to being civil to them; it has merely encouraged them to annoying gadflies. To all of you atheists out there: Happy Hanukah and a Merry Christmas. May the New Year bring that measure of tolerance and consideration for your fellow man that seems lacking in your philosophy.
jim laguardia December 14, 2012 at 12:39 PM
And yet another person who "very rarely posts" who comes out to trash me??
Al December 14, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Just like Monroe has Green so does the United States Government on the One Dollar Green Bill. Now what is written on the Green Bill? In God We Trust.
Max Johnson December 14, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Hey Chris, have you ever heard of the saying "don't knock it until you try it?" Have you ever been to a menorah lighting? Are you that intolerant of other peoples beliefs you can't even go to an event like this and just enjoy the Jewish culture? I don't see this menorah lighting as a "violation to the constitution and individual freedoms" and I'm sure none of the people participating in it did either. I saw this event of the menorah lighting as the Jewish community of Monroe coming together and sharing a special night. All I ask is instead of complaining about something you don't know the first thing about; you come out to a menorah lighting and interact with some of the very nice people there and the community. If you still have a problem with a menorah lighting after watching everyone smiling and coming together during the event, then bring the issue up with the town or the Jewish community.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Josh: I tried hard to mention in my letter relgious symbols. I would have been equally opposed to a nativity scene...but there is not a nativity scene on government property in monroe that i know of. Xmas tree might be a good point. I guess i always think of nativity scenes/menorahs as religious symbols. i guess i pretty much considered xmas trees secular like frosty- but certainly may reconsider this as something with religious symbolism.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Hi Max, my intention was not to knock any ceremony. i just think that perhaps we should have secular government property so everyone feels included. i have been to menorah lighting, and they are wonderful events. i would rather they be done on private property. I would also rather nativity scenes (which we do not have in Monroe) be on private property so we can be secular on government property. i appreciate your point of view, though.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 03:05 PM
HI Gerald, i can only speak for my atheism, but i think its fine to celebrate whichever religion (or non-religion in my case) in any way you would like. i would just rather it not be in government buildings or government land. but thanks for the comment.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Hi Mike, i am sorry you do not want to have a discussion about keeping religion and government separate. that was truly my intention. there is no nativity scene on govt property in Monroe (although of course i do mention i would equally opposed in my letter to that as well). i am an atheist- so i really have no "preference" of religious beliefs- christian, buddhist, jewish, muslim, etc. i am not a believer. also, i did not mention i "cross out" god we trust in money. i dont know where you read that. I wish we could have some more civil discourse on the thread- but the personal attacks are hurtful. i would just like to see no religious symbols on town property- so it can be kept secular and all can feel included. i know you disagree, but please chill with the personal atacks if possible.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Hi Bob, sorry you feel that my opinion makes me a "cry baby." I guess my point of view (different from yours) is why leave anyone out? it is impossible to have all religious represented on government land, so why not keep it secular? that way everyone feels welcome. just my opinion. on private lands of course, anyone can be free to express themselves. i just think that perhaps we should keep gov't and religion separate. i wish you didnt have to attack me personally.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Hi Jim, I have no alias on here. everything i post i do so with my name. if i wanted to hide, i could have left my name off this letter. although with the hurtful comments you make, directed at me personally, i certainly wish i never submitted it. i still believe that it would be best if we keep gov't and religion separate. you obviously disagree- and that's fine. but the personal attacks are hurtful. i wish we could have a more civil discourse.
jim laguardia December 14, 2012 at 03:56 PM
you keep saying i am attacking you.... how exactly am i attacking you?? specifics please
jim laguardia December 14, 2012 at 04:13 PM
ok lets try this again.... To all of the people who are coming out of the woodwork to attack ME, all of the nice things said to my face by REAL people last night at the Menorah Lighting over power your nasty comments. if the author of the letter had used the term "questioning" the menorah lighting or "religious symbols" instead of calling out the Menorah in his first sentance... things would have been different


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