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Beverly Hills Menorah Display

July 28, 1996

* The Court of Appeals decision that the menorah may not be displayed by itself in Beverly Gardens Park is being viewed as a church-state, 1st Amendment establishment clause ruling (July 20). It is indeed that, but it is more. The case is a classic, run-of-the-mill illustration of well-established constitutional law: A permit scheme that has no standards and that allows the granting or denial of a permit at the arbitrary whim of the agency violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment and, where speech is involved, the freedom-of-speech clause of the 1st.

And that is what happened here. Chabad alone was granted a permit to display its menorah--to engage in the speech it wanted and of which the government approved. Requests for a winter solstice display and for a Latin cross were refused on the ground that they were protests against the menorah. This speech was disapproved by the government and so denied. In the light of the facts, it would have been astounding had the court ruled in any other way.

FRED OKRAND

Sherman Oaks

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