This story has been updated.
Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, North Carolina, is capturing attention after school officials allegedly replaced the word “Christmas” with “holiday” in a student club’s announcement of a tree sale. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal group, claims that the decision was made after the school told the club that the sale, which is being organized for charity, could not be promoted by the school if it was solely associated “with a Christian event.”
The B.E.S.T. Society (Building Energy Sustainable Society) is the environmental campus club at the center of the debate. According to the school’s web site (which does use the word “Christmas” to describe the trees as of Wednesday morning), the sale will continue through Dec. 6.
“It’s ridiculous that anyone would have to think twice about using the word ‘Christmas’ as part of a Christmas tree sale,” proclaimed Matt Sharp, a lawyer with ADF.
According to The Christian Post, though, the club sought specific language for various on-campus means of announcing the sale. The announcement initially read, “The BEST Society will be selling Christmas Trees,” however this was changed by officials to “The BEST Society will be selling Holiday Trees.”
In a letter by the ADF, the group claims that the “forced” change to the wording of the advertisements negatively impacted the group. Some potential customers, upset over the change from “Christmas” to “holiday,” told B.E.S.T. that they would not be purchasing trees.
“This has resulted in direct harm to the club’s fundraising activity, the proceeds of which are being used to support Angel Tree, an organization that provides Christmas gifts to children,” the ADF letter reads, going on to note that the change violates the student group’s constitutional rights.
The group is asking that the school return all language referring to “Christmas” so that no legal action is necessary. As stated, the school’s web site is currently using the holiday’s name in the ad announcing the event. It will be intriguing to see how the college responds to other means of advertising that were previously changed to “holiday.”
“Western Piedmont Community College’s B.E.S.T. Society will be selling Christmas trees now through Thursday, Dec. 6. Tree prices are $25 for 6 to 7 foot tall trees; $30 for 7 to 8 foot tall trees, and $35 for 8 to 9 foot tall trees,” the announcement on the web site currently reads. “All trees must be pre-ordered by 5 p.m. the day before pick up with a $20 deposit; trees can be picked up on Fridays, Nov. 16 and Dec. 7 at the tennis courts on the College campus.”
Update: Fox News’ Todd Starnes reports that the college has reversed its ban. Officials are calling the action “a legitimate mistake.”
“It’s a misunderstanding based on a legitimate mistake we made,” Atticus Simpson, vice president of student development at Western Piedmont Community College, told Fox News. “We thought we were violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by promoting the sale of Christmas trees — which we thought would be promoting one religion over another.”
(H/T: Christian Post)