Dear Mr. DeLorenzo:
I am writing in response to the Hasbrouck Heights Town Council’s 3-2 vote, held on February 11, 2020, in support of Ordinance 2455 to Supplement Subsection E of Section 275-21 of the Borough Code amending the rules pertaining to lights and illuminated devices in the B1 (Boulevard Business District) section of Hasbrouck Heights. The Ordinance allows for lights and strings of illuminated devices and graphics to be used between Thanksgiving and the following January 10th to celebrate the holiday season.
As expressed at the meeting, my concern with the ordinance is its inherent cultural and religious bias. According to US Census data, most of the residents of Hasbrouck Heights identify as Christians; and therefore, associate the time spanning between Thanksgiving and January 10th as the Christmas holiday season. This is evidenced by the colors, motifs, and signage displayed prominently by the businesses themselves, as well as, by the Borough’s decorations, including a brightly-lit Christmas tree, wreaths that adorn all the lamp posts, and festive music that is played along the Boulevard.
Pursuant to Ordinance 2455, those businesses that display “lights and strings of illuminated devices and graphics” in celebration of the Christmas holiday season will be able to do so for six-to-eight weeks, depending on when Thanksgiving falls on the calendar that year. Furthermore, it provides for those businesses to display their holiday decorations for 16 days after Christmas.
Comparatively, other cultures and faiths are severely limited in the duration, if not prohibited altogether, of how long their decorations may be on display within the Business District by Ordinance 2455. Some examples include:
- Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, to be celebrated on November 14, 2020.
- Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. The dates change from year to year sometimes stretching into January (i.e.
- Chinese New Year, which falls between January 21st and February 20th each year.
According to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” Subsequently, this has been incorporated in the State of New Jersey by the 14th Amendment via case law. Not only does this ordinance present some concern about the religious and cultural bias it presents, but it is legally questionable, as well.
It is for the aforementioned reasons that I request that the Mayor and Council reconsider Ordinance 2455 and overturn it; thereby allowing all cultures and religions to honor their traditions and celebrations equally.
Many thanks for your consideration,