Last year, our Beech Mountain Town Council enacted a ban on the display of “human figures” using a signage ordinance to do it. The intent of the ordinance is to prohibit advertising, oversized chicken buckets, tin cans and yes, human figures such as Big Boy, the Keebler Elves or the Jolly Green Giant. Not decorations.

This decision would likewise ban statues of historical figures as well as Jesus, Santa, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Wicked Witch, right here in the Land of Oz. Banning decorations, which are temporary and not fixed structures, is a Grinchy example of government overreach at its worst.

The town council’s interpretation of a signage ordinance bans all displays of “human figures” from both public spaces and private places, restaurants, shops, offices, homes and houses of worship. The Beech ban was enacted after a local business owner wanted to put up whimsical holiday decorations similar to those we’ve enjoyed for years. That request was denied and all decorations displaying “human figures” were removed from our town’s public spaces as well.

When government bans anything based solely on what it does or does not like, laws are wrongly, unfairly and unjustly applied, and our civil liberties, property rights and basic freedoms are in danger. No individual or business should be subject to the whims and personal preferences of government. And no government should misappropriate or misuse a law to foist their personal preferences, religious beliefs or ideology on the rest of us. That’s not the American way and shouldn’t be the Beech Mountain way either.

Debra Miller

Beech Mountain

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(5) comments

Branch

This is a very strange letter. It seems we are starting the annual “war on Christmas” rhetoric—that apparently now accompanies every Democratic president’s administration—a bit early this year.

But this example is unique and odd in a few ways. First the timing: why write now about an issue that supposedly began last year, and supposedly banned Christmas decorations—including at “private places,” in August of the following year? I say “supposedly,” because these facts are all wrong.

The ordinance in question can be found here: https://www.townofbeechmountain.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2016-1-12-2016-__-Sign-Ord-Draft.pdf. It is not from last year, but rather from 2016. Furthermore, parts of this ordinance date back as far as 1981; though it’s unclear to me exactly when the banning of “human figures” was added to the ordinance, the year 2009 is referenced in the section of definitions. The ordinance also clearly exempts holiday decorations: “(b) Signs do not include holiday decorations, the flag or emblem of any nation, state, city, religious, fraternal or civic organization; nor merchandise and pictures or models of products incorporated in a window display; nor works of art which in no way identify a product; nor scoreboards located on athletic fields.” Holiday decorations are further described as “(2) Holiday decorations. The decorations normally associated with the holiday season from November to January.”

So to summarize: the banning of “human figures” began in at least 2016, if not long before (not last year), and explicitly exempts holiday decorations and religious emblems. The insistence of the author of this letter that “government overreach” is occurring and is affecting religious freedoms is absurd. My work brings me into the Beech Mountain Police Department regularly; their department sweatshirts for sale have “In God We Trust” emblazoned on them along with the BMPD logo. This letter is nothing but silly fear-mongering attempting to ride the surge of recent outlandish claims that the “authoritarian left” is forcing secularism on private citizens and seeking to control every minute facet of American life in totalitarian fashion. But this is total fantasy. Do you really think the political left has any power or presence in Beech Mountain, NC? We have been inculcated over the last 40+ years to believe that any governance is bad governance; as a result we are losing the ability to govern at all. This is just one more example of how deeply anti-establishment ideology has seeped into American minds.

guest83

Actually Branch, the facts are correct, the ordinance date has nothing to do with the new twist on interpretation, or misinterpretation. It was used to ban displays and decorations throughout the year on public and private property. As for timing, yes, it's still important because when a law is twisted as the signage ordinance was, more laws will be twisted in new and dangerous ways. And there is nothing "authoritarian left" about Beech, our Town Manager/Fire Chief still flies his Trump 2020 flag.

Branch

I stand corrected. I did not realize the ordinance was reinterpreted.

What do believe is the reasoning behind ban; how widespread was its enforcement? Was COVID-19 a factor in the reinterpretation?

guest83

No, the virus isn't a factor. How widespread? The whole town. As for the reason, personal preference which is what makes the misuse of the law wrong and dangerous. Laws must be written and enforced in the public's interest, not what one guy or a small group wants, believes, thinks, etc.

thechaosaysmuuuu

I agree.

So can we please then also remove the "In God We Trust" from the county courthouse? That's a gvt. building inappropriately displaying (in giant gold letters, too!) a specific religious ideology.

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