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A Tnr Holiday: Pittsburgh’s Menorah Wars

In 1996, Michael McGough looked at the debate over holiday displays and the comically absurd "reindeer rule" that regulates where menorahs and nativity scenes can be displayed across the country. It's a controversy that ultimately homed in on a specific menorah in Pittsburgh:

From this chronicle it is obvious that the combatants in Pittsburgh's menorah wars have been faithful to the spirit if not the letter of recent Supreme Court pronouncements in this area. That spirit is one of dissembling about what is really at stake in the debate over religious displays at government buildings. It is simply not credible that the religious character of a menorah or a reverent depiction of the Nativity can be subsumed in a three-ring-circus celebration of what Justice Blackmun called the "winter holiday season." And it is disingenuous to suggest that the Jews and Christians who rallied round the menorah and the Nativity respectively were motivated primarily by a concern for free speech or an open public forum. What they crave is government acknowledgment of their miracles. If all they wanted to do was gaze upon a Nativity scene or menorah in a public place, they could stroll through any of several Pittsburgh neighborhoods- or open an account at Mellon Bank.

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