Students at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, are reportedly coming together to protest against a Christmas tree on campus that has been adorned with condoms. The tree, which was put up by the college’s Gay Straight Alliance, was assembled to raise awareness about HIV-AIDS.
According to Joshua Habursky, a 20-year-old and a junior at the college, the tree first appeared on December 1 in conjunction with AIDS Awareness Day. Habursky, who is the president of the college’s Young Republicans Club, has approached the club as well as campus leadership to voice his concern about the odd holiday commemoration.
The “decorated” Christmas tree is located in “the Hub,” another name for the college’s student center. Rather than colorful ornaments, condoms are hung on its branches. And instead of a beautiful angel, star or Christ at its top, an open condom is placed over the tree’s higher point. Next to it, a sign reads, “AIDS Awareness! Free condoms! Take one!” Students can apparently nab them right off of the tree.
“I submitted to [the club's leaders] that I understand the tree was for thr AIDS Awareness Day…but why is it continuing to stay up into the Christmas season?,” Habursky told the Blaze in an exclusive interview.
But despite his questioning, then Gay Straight Alliance is reportedly not budging.
“They’re keeping the tree. They stand by the free speech of the club. I certainly understand the free speech component,” he explained. “But I think it’s a direct attack on Christianity and borderline obscene.”
“I pleaded to the college president to take it down,” he explained. “I met with the dean of student life who said that he approved the tree and that he would approve the tree again.”
Habursky says that a counter-movement, though in its infancy, is beginning. The school’s Christian Student Association and Newman Club (Catholic campus group) are coming together with the campus chaplain and priest to put up a rival nativity scene. He says the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will also be supporting the initiative.
But rather than showcasing only the nativity, Habursky and company plan to also place an AIDS awareness sign on campus — in a separate location. “The two will be in separate locations and they each will support their own independent message,” he explained.
This, Habursky says, shows that while the students care about AIDS awareness, they do not see the Gay Straight alliance tree as the proper way to address the issue.
In addition to finding the tree offensive, Habursky also voiced concern over elementary school children who he says come to the campus and may actually walk through the area where the tree is located. “We are trying to have the tours rerouted,” he explained. “I don’t know what they were thinking about this,” he continued.
The Blaze reached out to numerous individuals at Washington & Jefferson College. While we received a call from the school’s communications director saying that we would likely receive comments on the tree, we have not yet received any calls or e-mails in that vein.
The school could, as Habursky has claimed it argued, say that it must afford rights to student groups, regardless of how offensive a club’s actions may be. Do you think the school should demand the tree be taken down? Take our poll, below:
(H/T: Young America’s Foundation)
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article referred to the college as William & Jefferson. It is Washington & Jefferson.