To the Editor:

Regarding my letter about the Nativity display at the municipal complex: I wrote that almost a year ago, in December 2016. How interesting that it is being shared now, along with fear mongering commentary by my opponents. I prefer to rely on empathy for everyone, including those different from myself.

I wrote that letter to Anthony Ferrara, Township Administrator. The contents of my letter were obviously shared, or its existence was hinted at, to people unaffiliated with the township’s responsibility regarding this issue.

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I stand by my letter. Little did I know that it would be in the public realm, receiving a variety of reactions, so I would like to expand on what I wrote.

I hesitate to say the following: I am a devout Catholic. I attend Mass six times a week, and I pray the Rosary almost daily. I am a volunteer for our Children’s Liturgy and our Art and Environment Committee. The latter decorates our church throughout the year. We put up three Nativity sets. I have two in my home.

I hesitated to say that because I’m concerned about the perception that my deep faith lends more legitimacy to my stand regarding this issue. Actually, these points should be considered valid by anyone who practices any religion to any degree, or none at all.

The constitutionality of religious displays is debatable. Conflicting rulings by the Supreme Court regarding specific cases demonstrate that this is not a clear-cut matter with respect to the Constitution.

But that is beside my main point. I believe that our township should be sensitive to, and representative of, all of its residents, and religious displays betray that. At least non-religious symbols, such as colorful lights, wreaths, and Santa, are inclusive.

Some people are claiming, ironically, that the Nativity scene and the Menorah represent Hillsborough’s diversity. Hillsborough has residents who follow many different religions in addition to Christianity and Judaism. I can’t recall any official acknowledgment of other religions’ holidays on the part of the township, certainly not to the same degree as these displays. And I don’t think that would be possible.

Nor is it necessary. Like myself, people can freely decorate (or not) in honor of their respective religious holidays in their own homes, on their own properties, and in their houses of worship. We are bombarded with anything and everything related to Christmas, and to a much lesser degree, Hanukkah, in all forms of the media. Believe me, Christmas is not being ignored. Removing one Nativity scene will not affect a Christian’s feeling of inclusion.

But displaying a Nativity and a Menorah is an exclusionary action on the part of the township. As they are drowned in almost constant exposure to Christmas, people of other faiths should be able to look to their local municipality for a sense of feeling included, not dismissed or ignored.

Jane Staats