Boca Raton bans Christmas trees or Hanukkah menorahs in all of its public buildings

Tired of lawsuit threats

BOCA RATON, Fla. - The only things you'll find on Boca Raton library walls during the holidays this year will have to do with books, library cards and rules.

The only lights will be the ones on the ceiling.

"Disappointing. It's a freedom that you should be able to display your beliefs, whether it's public or private," said Boca Raton resident Brenda Scott. "It just brings joy to people."

The city of Boca Raton has decided not to allow Christmas trees or Hanukkah menorahs in any of its public buildings, symbols the Supreme Court allows.

The Supreme Court says they don't necessarily signify religion.

"Menorahs, Christmas trees. It should all be allowed in public places," said Scott.

City Hall officials said they're tired of playing referee.

The mayor, who decorated her own Christmas-themed golf cart for the city's holiday parade, said two years of media attention and the threat of lawsuits from religious groups - who wanted more displayed than just a Christmas tree - has exhausted them beyond the breaking point.

"We do still conduct business on a daily basis. The disruption was frankly just too much," said Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel.

Whelchel said she's disappointed that following a standard set by the Supreme Court wasn't enough to quiet the anger.

"It's relatively a select few. It's people who just don't want to take the Supreme Court decision at face value," said Whelchel.

The city will still provide one public space for groups to display religious articles.

Sanborn Square will remain what the city calls a "free speech area," for groups to display trees and manger scenes.

But for many, it's not enough to deliver a fulfilling feeling of Christmas and Hanukkah.

"Holiday lights everywhere you go -- that's what I liked about Boca before," said Boca Raton resident Ralph Schade.

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