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Editorial: Vergennes’ worthy message

Some residents of Vergennes may begrudge the increasing complexity of the city’s efforts to establish policy to continue to allow the long-standing nativity scene to be erected on the city park each Christmas season, but it is time and effort well spent.
By treading cautiously and thoroughly reviewing the consequences of each suggestion, the city council is getting the policy right — and bringing the public along with them at each step.
What is particularly encouraging is the even-handed manner in which the issues have been handled, and the respect to which all perspectives have been accorded.
The city has been firm in its commitment to treat all religions and personal beliefs equally; to demonstrate unbiased support to all, or none; and to develop a community policy that will serve the city well for numerous events they can foresee and many others yet on the horizon.
Their example serves as a model for other communities throughout the area and state.
What Vergennes has discovered is that a tradition the community has long tolerated — and, in many cases, enjoyed — has been offensive to other residents, and most probably not compliant with laws prohibiting government entities from expressing support for any particular religion or belief. While most residents probably didn’t consider allowing the crèche on the city green an active show of support, courts have determined otherwise and, once discovered, the city immediately set about finding a remedy.
The city’s solution, it appears, will be to create a policy allowing all to use the city park according to regulations it drafts. The viable option, held by many communities, is to deny the use of town property to all for such purposes.
The city’s choice is more complicated, but also more inclusive and sends a powerful message — city parks are meant to be used, enjoyed, shared, and even to bring disparate parts of the community together.
That’s a message worthy of the careful and thoughtful process the city is pursuing.
Angelo S. Lynn

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