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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 22, 2006

Maui adds Christmas tree near menorah

Associated Press

WAILUKU, Maui Maui County workers have installed a Christmas tree next to a Hanukkah display in front of a county building after the American Civil Liberties Union questioned whether a Jewish religious display could legally stand alone on government property.

ACLU legal director Lois Perrin said members of her group spotted the menorah a candelabrum lit to celebrate Hanukkah in front of the County Building along with a dreidel a spinning top used in a game played by children during the Jewish holiday of lights.

Perrin then sent a letter to Mayor Alan Arakawa Monday saying that the prominent Hanukkah display gave the impression that Maui was endorsing Judaism. The letter cited case law that found government displays of religious symbols on their own could be perceived as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, but when beside secular holiday symbols, like Christmas trees, such displays do not endorse religion.

"The goal of the ACLU is not to ruin the celebration of Hanukkah or any other religious holiday, but rather to ensure that the government does not endorse the views of one religion to the exclusion of others," Perrin wrote.

The lighted menorah was set up earlier this month following a request by members of the Jewish outreach organization, the Maui Mitzvah Center, said Ellen Pelissero, a spokeswoman for the county.

"The rabbi asked the mayor if he could put a menorah up and he said 'Sure,' " she said. "I guess nobody else asked. So, it appeared it was an endorsement of one (religion) when it really wasn't."

Displays including both menorahs and Christmas trees are up at the state's major airports.

An 11-foot Monterey pine from the Kula Botanical Garden was installed by Maui County workers late Wednesday afternoon at the Kalana O Maui building in Wailuku.