Atheists want inclusion in Santa Cruz holiday celebration


Santa Cruz area atheists want to be a part of the city's traditions, and so for the first time, they are taking part in the Santa Cruz holiday parade and holding a sign that says, "Reason's Greetings!"

Atheists believe in reason over religion. After the parade, they planned to post their banner downtown.

In the past, the menorah has been raised in front of the post office, the community tree has been lit up, so the atheists wanted to put their banner over by the sculpture garden, but nothing has been set up yet. The Jewish community and the city say it is because of financial reasons.

The atheists wonder if the other displays are absent because of them, but they also take issue with the city's pricey permitting process.

"The city won't allow any group to leave a sign or a monument on a city street without personal attendance," says City Attorney John Barisone.

In other words, a full-time guard is required plus a $1 million insurance policy.

"We're being told we have to meet the conditions that were relaxed for Chabad By the Sea and the menorah last year," says atheist Sonya Newlyn.

Last year, the city told Chabad By the Sea about the permit requirements for the first time, but the menorah first went up in 2006. The city ended up issuing the permit without the upgrades.

When it was pointed out that the city allowed the menorah to stand for a few years without a guard, Barisone says "Right… and that was done mistakenly."

Residents in the meantime don't like what they see downtown.

"It is sad that there's no holiday decorations or anything like that," says Santa Cruz resident Bryony Chamberlain.

The Rabbi and the city say it is too soon to talk about what the holiday landscape will look like next year.

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