Panel calls for airport to not look a lot like Christmas

SEATTLE - Decking the halls with boughs of holly is fine as long as it doesn't look like Christmas at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, an advisory panel has recommended.

The region's largest airport, scene of a flap over holiday displays last winter, should be decorated for the holidays again this year, possibly with trees, lights, colors and fabric but not with any religious symbols, the Port of Seattle's Holiday Decorations Advisory Committee decided Thursday.

"The use of light and color is especially appropriate in Seattle due to our dark winter travel season," but holiday decorations should "reflect the Pacific Northwest environment and our diverse community, and convey universal values, such as peace and harmony," the panel recommended. "Our goal is to create an inclusive and warm environment at the airport."

David Schaefer, a port spokesman, said the recommendations will be used in developing a design for holiday decorations that, in turn, will be subject to port commission review.

Uproar in 2006

The advisory group was formed after an uproar over nine trees decorated with red ribbons and bows at the airport last December.

The trees were taken down after Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of the Chabad Lubavitch organization threatened a lawsuit unless a menorah representing Hanukkah was added.

Then the trees went back up after Bogomilsky said he never wanted them removed, only that the Jewish holiday be recognized as well. No menorah was allowed.

In the future, any trees should be decorated so they do not appear to be Christmas trees, although some on the advisory panel insisted that "the Christmas trees were not a Christian religious symbol," said Fredric C. Tausend, a lawyer who headed the group.

Bogomilsky, the target of hundreds of hate-mail messages in the flap, was on the committee but attended only one meeting, Tausend said. Bogomilsky's lawyer, Harvey Grad, said the rabbi wasn't aware of the recommendations. His client couldn't make it to all the meetings because of scheduling conflicts, he said.