Letters to the Editor: An appalling disrespect for the US Constitution

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

To the Editor:

I appreciate the coverage by SAN of the Sunday 12/2/2018 Chanucha commemoration in the Shoreline City Hall, in which appointed Mayor Will Hall played a significant role by lighting the first candle on the Menorah to commemorate this Jewish religious event. I find this event to be highly questionable.

As a long time anti-war activist I object to commemorating militarism, the War of Independence an exception. War is not the answer to conflict, causing more problems than it solves and is woefully costly. Might does not make right. Alternatively, Martin Luther in 1517 confronted the despotism of the Catholic Church with reason by nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, thus changing the structure of Christianity forever.

I object because this religious event was held in the Shoreline City Hall, a building paid for with Shoreline’s citizens’ tax dollars. Rabbi Davidoff could have held this event at the Shoreline Chabad synagogue. Will Hall should have insisted that this Jewish religious event be held at a Jewish house of worship.

The City Hall is a taxpayer paid site, to be used to benefit all Shoreline citizens. Holding a religious event on government property is a violation of the First Amendment Right of separation of church and state, a crucial element of our democratic republic which aimed to prevent tyranny, especially religious tyranny. Anyone familiar with English history, the mother country of the US, and our early colonial history should remember the horrors of such despotism.

Holding this event in the City Hall - the Mayor playing a major role in this religious observance - clearly violates the SCOTUS ruling that our government cannot show a preference for one religious denomination over another, The mayor and Rabbi Davidoff have demonstrated an appalling disrespect for the US Constitution.

Virginia M. Paulsen, PhD


Jim Hutter December 6, 2018 at 3:45 AM  

Very good point and hopefully a lesson learned.

Doug December 6, 2018 at 5:58 AM  

Your religion appears to be secular humansm. Should the state recognize your religion instead?

Doug December 6, 2018 at 6:05 AM  

War sometimes IS the only answer to a conflict. Aggressive Evil must be stopped by any means. Hitler was stopped by fighting back, for example. My experience is that “antiwar” usually means “anti US involvement” against leftist causes.

Anonymous,  December 6, 2018 at 7:06 AM  

In other words, would it be likely or even appropriate for City Hall to host a Good Friday service or a Christian Sunrise service on Easter Sunday?

Anonymous,  December 6, 2018 at 8:07 AM  

You condemn the American Revolution because of its violence, yet you cite the US Constitution to justify your opposition to the lovely Hanukkah celebration at City Hall. Do you actually believe we'd even HAVE a Constitution if we hadn't fought the British? BTW, it's freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.

ThomForeman December 6, 2018 at 10:07 AM  

There is no "First Amendment Right of separation of church and state". That is a complete mis-understanding or purposeful mis-reading. Here is the actual amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

No where in that amendment nor in the constitution does it forbid the government or government employees from participating in religious ceremonies.

Of course, no one wants a religious theocracy, and being kind to our neighbors and their religious traditions is not a slippery slope to a theocracy. This sort of outrage reeks more of just anti-religious zealotry, and that is a danger to our republic far more than lighting a menorah or putting up Christmas lights.

Local friendly citizen December 6, 2018 at 11:24 AM  

Wow. "Appalling disrespect for the constitution"? It seems like you need more hobbies. How does this Menorah lighting for one evening (2 hours) really offend you?

Anonymous,  December 6, 2018 at 12:16 PM  

What next, a Festivus pole?!

Anonymous,  December 7, 2018 at 10:26 AM  

The anti-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution was meant to protect religion from the state - not the state from religion. Thankfully, the U.S. Constitution allows the mayor and the rabbi, as free citizens, to come together to light a candle. Ms. Paulsen's misguided attempt to use the U.S. Constitution to spew anti-semitic rhetoric is what is appalling. It is also appalling that the editor chose to publish this nonsense.

Anonymous,  December 7, 2018 at 10:49 AM  

I'm happy to read this letter - I thought perhaps I was the only person in Shoreline that is unhappy with religious observations on secular government property - I had seen the Lynnwood menorah lighting publicized in the SAN but I was unaware Shoreline was making the same mistake.
I will be contacting the city attorney and hopefully this will be the last religious activity at City Hall.
Several years ago I attended a city council meeting, and was appalled that the council members bowed their heads and prayed in a circle before sitting down to begin the meeting. Maggie Fimia was the only member who did not participate and entered the room after the prayer. When/if want to start meetings with prayers and trust in god I will go to church.
Anyone who wants more info is welcome to check out Freedom From Religion website. For those of you that want the menorahs at City Hall, get ready to see your taxes wasted defending the City in this illegal activity.

Anonymous,  December 7, 2018 at 9:06 PM  

why is this such a big deal but christmas themed decorations aren't? i have seen tons of christmas decorations in government buildings, and i am expected to accept that, yet a chanukah menorah is a problem? and i receive the blatant misspelling of chanukah in the original letter - even though there are multiple commonly accepted spellings - as a reflection of disrespect for jewish culture; as a phd, i would think that ms. paulsen would realize this.

Anonymous,  December 8, 2018 at 9:23 AM  

It's not a religious "Christmas" decoration unless it's the cross, the nativity, jesus and mary, etc. Holly, greens, lights, are all seasonal decor to brighten the dark days of winter. You don't see tulips and peonies in December because that's not what nature is providing in this season. It's not rocket science, folks.

Doug December 10, 2018 at 1:34 PM  

Any decoration at Christmas is in recognition of the holiday...the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. So Holly and lights are decorations for the Christmas holiday. Yes, The government is neutral, but its citizens aren't. The vast majority recognize the Christmas and/or Hanukkah holidays and their significance to our nation's founding and people. The city is respecfully recognizing the views of some of its citizens. It's not an establishing of a religion. It's a recognition that this is important to a group of its citizens. Nothing wrong with it.

Anonymous,  December 12, 2018 at 10:04 PM  

If this objection were to any government participation in any religious event, I'd be in agreement. I wonder if she objects equally to the tree lighting ceremony, sponsored and advertised by the city? If not Christian by appropriation, it would still be Druid, which is also religious in nature. I also see Breakfast with Santa and a Solstice stroll on the official city calendar, being advertised if not supported by city resources, and most damning of all: the city offices are closed on Christmas and Christmas Eve! Shocking. I hope she is equally offended by all of these religious observances utilizing city resources.

I suspect the actual issue here is, let's be blunt, an objection to a JEWISH observance. That paragraph about war seems terribly out of place -- why bring it up if this is really about separation of church and state? Why is it relevant? She not only spells Chanukah in perhaps the only original way I can imagine (there are several normalized transliterations -- she managed not to use any of them) but she appears to have fundamentally missed the meaning of Chanukah. It is not a celebration of war, but a celebration of the recovery and rededication of a Synagogue that had been desecrated.

So why the paragraph about war, and in particular, why note an exception for our War of Independence? (I presume she meant ours, and not Israels or another nation.)

I suspect the answer is that she's looking for a reason that THIS celebration is more offensive than others. A reason the 4th of July is fine, and the tree is ok (not specifically on city property, though with city resources) etc.

Just THIS observance.

I do hope that anyone objecting to this event will make sure to note that there are other religious events utilizing city resources to various degrees, and will object to ALL of them. No Holly and Fir decorations (Druid), no trees or Solstice celebrations(Pagan), no Santa (a monk from Turkey), etc.

If you do include ALL such observances, then this Jewish person will stand beside you in your request that ALL such clutter be removed from our halls and budgets. I guarantee you I will get the better end of that deal.

Anonymous,  December 19, 2018 at 1:08 PM  

Hey that's a great suggestion to eliminate all city sponsorship of religious festivities. If a church or social club want to sponsor breakfast with Santa at their own location, good on 'em! It's the Religious iconography at CITY HALL that is the original problem in this dialogue.

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