Special guest column by Dr. Lauren French
Published January 4, 2005

I am writing in hearty support of Devon stout;s recent column on tolerance, the separation of church and state, and the respectful request to have religious holiday displays kept to private propoerties.

I am Jewish and have lived in Meadville for four years. It is difficult to be in the minority in this town. It is very isolation. I have never before lived in a place where so few people have even heard of the major Jewish holidays, and where so few people care to learn anything about different cultures.

Meadville is also the first place where I have ever been on the direct receiving end of ignorant stereotypes ragarding my background. I am thankful that I have had the good fortune to live in so many more tolerant places.

However, I do not mean to suggest that my time here has been miserable. I enjoy many wonderful friendships and have made a place for myself. There is a small but supportive Jewish community, and I am thankful for that. I try to contribute as much as I can to the Meadville community.

I enjoy having discussions with my friends about beliefs and traditions, and I have learned a lot. Icelebrate both the similarities and differences between myself and the people I meet. I would never force my religion on others, so why is it too much to ask for the same respect? Why is it too much to ask that public property decorations remain secular in nature?

If displaying a nativity scene on any private property--such as a church or at someone's home--is important to the inhabitants, then by all means do it. Share your beliefs in that way. Having such displays on public property makes people of other faiths feel unwelcome. Public property belongs to all of us. It shouldn't make some of Meadville's citizens feel like outcasts.

At the very least, it would be nice to have a more multicultural display in Diamond Park.

There has been quite the torrent of irate letters over this matter of tolerance for all faiths from people who probably consider themselves to be "good Christians." The people I know who call themselves Christians seem to think that religion is about loving one's neighbors and beind kind. THey alos think that this season is especially about peace, love and generosity. I think I like their view better.

In closing, I would like to wish all the citizens of Crawford COunty a happy holiday season, whether that means Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Diwali, or simply a happy and healthy winter.