Religious displays will be allowed on public land in Bethel.
The Board of Selectmen adopted regulations last night calling for applications to be entered into a lottery if there are too many seeking the same parcel of land. Selectman Rich Straiton voted in opposition, saying no displays should be allowed, concerned it would lead to a lawsuit or displays that some find offensive. He believes the displays should go on private property.
The issue came up after a resident applied to hang a banner, wishing a "happy holidays from your friendly atheist neighbors" on the same property at the same time as a creche. The Religious Display Committee recommended that the creche and banner be grandfathered in and always allowed, with every other applicant put into a lottery. But First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the town could not legally give special treatment to certain displays.
Other regulations adopted last night are that a Bethel resident or organization can apply, the application period is October 1st to November 7th. The holiday displays will be allowed on P-T Barnum Square between the Tuesday before Thanksgiving through January 7th. Displays can only take up a third of the total square footage of the property. Applicants must have insurance.
The Selectmen noted that applications can be rejected for public safety concerns.