Reported by ABC News, 15 Christmas trees that had decorated the entrances of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for the last 25 years were removed last weekend under the looming a federal lawsuit of a Jewish advocate group.
Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky requested the airport authority to put up an eight-foot menorah and hold a lighting ceremony in celebration of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, otherwise his group would sue the airport in federal court by making a connection between the menorah and the Christmas trees that had been put up by the Port Authority. The request made by Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky and the subsequent threatening of federal lawsuit were part of a otherwise successful campaign that had installed some 6,000 highly visible menorahs in public places across the country.
The president of the Seattle Port Commission, Patricia Davis, calling the tree-clearing 'regrettable'. She told the press: "We tried to come to some accommodation or some resolution and could not," she said. "They issued us several ultimatums and finally said they would sue is in federal court. … The time deadline was 10 a.m. Friday. … We were faced with the choice of spending unknown amounts of the public's money on litigation, or, in the next few days, trying to figure out how to accommodate all the cultures in our society." Craig Watson, chief lawyer for the Port of Seattle added, "We're not in the business of offending anyone and we're not eager to get into a federal lawsuit with anyone". Airport spokeswoman Betancourt said, the port did not have the time or budget to put up a culturally sensitive and inclusive holiday display, and that the port didn't want to be in litigation with the Jewish community."
Harvey Grad, the Rabbi's attorney was set to file the lawsuit Friday morning on behalf of Rabbi Bogomilsky. "There is no debate on this anymore," Grad said. "The menorah is something the Port is legally obligated to put up." "The law is clear regarding Christmas displays in public places - anyone wanting to put up an alternative display must be accommodated."