Candidate for the Democratic nomination for US Senate in Connecticut, Greenwich resident Lee Whitnum has filed a Town of Greenwich and First Selectman Peter Tesei's decision to rent town hall facilities for the 63rd israeli Independence celebration.
Below is a press release Whitnum issued on her lawsuit, followed by a statement issued Wednesday evening by Tesei.
"Democratic Candidate for the United States Senate Lee Whitnum filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Greenwich and Peter Tesei, First Selectmen (sic) for violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment for the multiple displays of the Star of David and holding the Bar Mitzvah
of Aner Shofty on Town of Greenwich property.
"In addition, Whitnum is calling for the voluntary resignation of First Selectman Peter Tesei and she has asked the Court for a RTM hearing on Tesei's fitness to govern.
"I took offense," said Whitnum. "I'm objecting to the hypocrisy and double - standard. A public official should represent all of the people. He is just pandering, it's unacceptable."
"In the complaint submitted to the Bridgeport District Court on
September 8, 2011 Whitnum sites the highly publicized 1989 ACLU V. Town of Greenwich case regarding the Christian Cross on the Cos Cob Firehouse.
"We can't have a double standard," said Whitnum. "If you can't have a Christian Cross on a municipal building you can't display the Star of David there either. As a politician you must represent all of the people. And,"Whitnum added, "you certainly can't hold a Bar Mitzvah."
"Whitnum is referring to the May 15 63rd Israel Independence
celebration at the town hall which was sponsored by the UJA and paid for through The First Selectman's office. The flag of Israel was raised at town hall and numerous Stars of David were displayed.
"The Israel flag has a Star of David which is a religious symbol - as Israel describes itself as the Jewish state..." also she added, "Many people do not view Israel's independence Day as a celebration" "I mean seriously what was he thinking - a Bar Mitzvah? On Town property!"
"Whitnum is also calling for the local religious group the Greenwich Reform Synagogue to reimburse the town of Greenwich for the Bar Mitzvah of Aner Shofty by paying for any expenses not covered by the fee paid by the UJA.
"If our towns can't have a cross on the firehouse, a nativity scene or a public graduation at a Catholic auditorium then why is Town of Greenwich allowing a Bar Mitzvah on Town Hall property. No other religious group is allowed such access. The double-standard is wrong. If Tesei doesn't have the backbone to just say no - then perhaps he shouldn't govern.
"She is referring to the 2 active ACLU cases in Manchester, CT and Essex, CT regarding Christian symbol at a Post Office and public school graduation at a Catholic High School. The ACLU has filed numerous case (sic) across the country objecting tO navity (sic) scenes.
"Whitnum sites (sic) numerous groups of local people who she feels would be offended, and reasons they would be offended by the celebration in the 12 page complaint viewable at: www.leewhitnum.com/Press_Releases.html
"I do not believe the Town of Greenwich should be celebrating the trail-of-tears of the Christians and Muslims that were forced from the land to make way for emigrating Jews from the United States and Europe." Said Whitnum. "there are many people in Greenwich who memorialize May 15 as the Nakba Day, an event millions view as a day of mourning."
"Nakba Day held on the same day and Israeli Independence commemorates the 700,000 Christians and Muslims were pushed into refugee camps at that time to make way for the Jewish state. "Descendents of that ethnic cleansing, have been living in oppression for three generations and Israel's refusal to do right by them makes us all unsafe according to General Patreaus's who said before Congress, 'the Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict foments anti-American sentiment.""
"Whitnum, who is of British decent cites personal reasons why she does not celebrate Israel independence, "It's personal for me, my father was a British officer in the 1940's. Zionist terrorists, the Ingun, blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and 91 people died that day - 70 were British officers. After that violent act the British who had maintained ethnic balance with the 1939 White Paper walked away and the UN Partition created Israel."
"Whitnum also objected to the brief proposal that the Town of Greenwich toyed with the idea to hold the 9-11 town memorial service at the local synagogue.
"No way," said Whitnum. "A town event must be held on non-religious property."
"Whitnum approached the ACLU of CT three time to take this case and they have ignored her. "They are biased," said Whitnum. "If it were a Christening on Town Building they'd probably take the case."
"Whitnum is a candidate for the US senate seat currently held by Joe Lieberman."
"The Town of Greenwich Law Department, lead by Town Attorney John Wayne Fox handles matters of litigation for the Town and its Officers. The Law Department is aware of the lawsuit filed by Lisa Whitnum.
"On Sunday, May 15, 2011 there was recognition of the State of Israel by a number of elected officials and the community at Greenwich Town Hall as part of the annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration. At the request of Greenwich residents, the Town of Greenwich annually recognizes various nationalities and ethnic groups and celebrates their heritage. The Israeli Independence Day Celebration has taken place at Town Hall for two decades.
"For example, the Irish Flag is raised on St. Patrick’s Day, the Italian Flag on Columbus Day, the Filipino Flag in recognition of their Independence Day, the French Flag on Bastille Day along with the Swedish Flag, Norwegian Flag and others as requests come forth from our residents.
"This event was hosted by UJA Federation of Greenwich and they paid a fee of $351.83 for the building custodian to be present and maintain the facility during the period of the event.
"Nothing done on this date was different from other ethnic or national celebrations at Town Hall and this lawsuit is baseless."