Atheist banner causing Christmas controversy after town approves display

Posted: Updated:
BETHEL -

Controversy has erupted in Bethel after the town approved a holiday display proposed by local atheists.

A banner will be hung in PT Barnum Square this weekend reading, "Happy holiday season - whatever you celebrate - from your friendly atheist neighbors." 

Some residents have found the message as an attack on their faith.

"I find that very snarky. You can just keep that to yourself, you don't have to voice your opinion every time," said one resident.

Others think it is a positive step.

"I think we ought to be all-inclusive," said another person. "If there's atheists, by all means let them celebrate, pagans too, and the Christians and Muslims and everybody."

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says as soon as he saw the proposal, he smelled a Christmas controversy. He says even if the town had wanted to say no to the banner, legally, its hands would have been tied.

"If we have any display, we must in order to comply with the law, have an alternative display," says Knickerbocker.

But Knickerbocker says Bethel is open to people of all faiths -- and non-faiths.

Officials say in the new year, a committee will be formed to set a permanent policy on holiday displays to avoid overcrowding and future controversies.

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