University of Minnesota Retracts Restrictions on Christmas Decorations

US President Donald Trump (R) claps next to First Lady Melania Trump (2R) during the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the Ellipse in President's Park near the White House in Washington, DC on November 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON

The University of Minnesota is retracting a document that restricted staff use of Christmas decorations on campus.

In a memo sent by the University of Minnesota earlier this month, staff was told that Santa and Christmas tree decorations were “not appropriate” for campus buildings.

In general, the following are not appropriate for gatherings and displays at this time of year since they typically represent specific religious iconography: Santa Claus, Angels, Christmas trees, Star of Bethlehem, Dreidels, Nativity scene, bows/wrapped gifts. Menorah, Bells, Doves, Red and Green or Blue and White/Silver decoration themes (red and green are representative of the Christian tradition as blue and white/silver are for Jewish Hanukkah that is also celebrated at this time of year).

The memo asked university staffers to consider using “neutral-themed” decorations when decking out their campus space.

In a comment to Campus Reform, the University of Minnesota claims that the memo was merely advisory rather than an enforced policy. “We do not have such a policy, would never implement such a policy, and any representation otherwise is incorrect,” they said. “Again, the University of Minnesota does not have a Religious and Diversity Holiday policy and has no intention of introducing such a policy.”

Becket, a law firm that focuses on religious liberty, gave the University of Minnesota the “Ebeneezer Award.” Becket calls the award their lowest “(dis)honor.” It is awarded each year to an institution that places restrictions on religious expression.

“Each year Becket reflects on the most absurd affronts to the Christmas and Hanukkah season and bestows upon the most outrageous offender a lump of coal,” a press release reads.

“A hearty bah-humbug toast to University officials who make Christian and Jewish students feel like second class citizens at a time that should be full of brotherly love and giving,”  Becket Executive Director Montse Alvarado said in a comment.

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