Under the guise of inclusivity, colleges across the nation are promoting non-religious decorations and displays for Christmas.
It's part of an annual debate on whether public religious displays are appropriate for Christmas — a holiday so-named because it celebrates the birth of Christ. Some colleges issue decorating guidelines, reports Campus Reform, a conservative website for college news. College leaders say the guidelines are simply an attempt to make the holiday season more inclusive.
At the State University of New York at Brockport and other colleges, decorating guidelines advise against religious Christmas displays.
“Keep decorations general and non-specific to any religion," Brockport's policy states. "Create a winter theme with lights and color rather than religious icons, or include decorations from all the cultural traditions represented in your department. Be sure to ask everyone in the department to contribute to holiday decorating.”
Brockport's policy goes as far as saying that Secret Santa gift exchanges should instead be called "grab bags."
What about decorating contests?
Campus decorating contests are also becoming more inclusive.
Life University in Marietta, Georgia, is holding a holiday decorating contest that considers not only the beauty of the decorations, but “inclusiveness, or how the decorations are respectful of all the religious winter holidays." Likewise, the Eastern Connecticut State University is holding an "inclusive" decorating party, according to Campus Reform.
Other colleges are leaving off the word “Christmas” to describe annual tree lighting ceremonies, Campus Reform reports. Included among them is Mercyhurst University, a Catholic college in Erie, Pennsylvania. Mercyhurst now calls it the "annual holiday tree lighting."
Have students commented on the White House nativity scene?
The student newspaper at Harvard University published an editorial bashing President Donald Trump for bringing back a nativity scene to the White House grounds.
“Bringing back the nativity scene is a slap in the face to the remaining religions thriving within America,” the editorial states. “Placing the nativity scene on the grounds of the most important house in the United States is sending the message that their president forgets those who do not practice Christianity.”
Are 'religious icons' being barred?
Other colleges have told students and faculty that “religious icons” should not be displayed. Missouri State University, for example, suggested displaying snowmen, bells, flowers, and other nondescript items.
At the University of California, Irvine, individual departments were told to have displays that “diverse symbols representing a variety of faith traditions along with secular ones." A policy from the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity told staffers to “focus on celebrating a special occasion, instead of a specific holiday.”
How did all of this start?
Supporters of taking Christianity out of Christmas say placing religious decorations in schools violates Supreme Court rulings and the separation of church and state provided by the Establishment Clause in the Constitution.
The Pew Forum points to two Supreme Court rulings used concerning religious displays on government property:
- “Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) The court ruled that a Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Christmas display, which included a crèche (nativity scene) as well as more secular symbols of Christmas, such as a Santa Claus and reindeer, was permissible.
- County of Allegheny v. ACLU (1989) The court struck down a Christmas crèche displayed alone inside a courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but upheld the same city’s broader holiday display that included a Christmas tree and menorah.”