Wisconsin City Bans Employees from Hanging ‘Religious Decorations’ to Be ‘Inclusive’

Christmas holiday background. Gifts with a red ribbon
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A memo from a Wisconsin deputy city administrator discouraged employees from putting up “religious decorations” in “red and green colors” for the holidays in public buildings in order to be “inclusive.”

The email from Wauwatosa Deputy City Administrator Melissa Cantarero Weiss, obtained by local outlet Wisconsin Right Now, began by requesting that city employees create a “welcoming and inclusive environment for all residents and visitors to our buildings, as well as all our co-workers.”

The message went on to ask that workers refrain from using “religious decorations” or “those solely associated with Christmas (such as red and green colors)” in public spaces within city buildings.

Weiss continued to suggest alternatives to traditional Christmas decorations, like snowflakes, “snow people,” and lights, using “colors like blue, green and purple instead.”

The outlet reported that the email stated that City Administrator Jim Archambo was also on board with the memo.

“Those receiving the email have suggested the city’s priorities have gone askew, particularly when there are more pressing matters at hand,” the media outlet reported. 

Following backlash sparked by media reports, Wauwatosa’s mayor sent an email to the city’s Common Council, confirming the legitimacy of Weiss’s email.

“You may have heard that certain media outlets, especially Wisconsin Right Now and the Daily Mail (a United Kingdom tabloid), are stoking controversy over an email that our Deputy City Administrator, Melissa Weiss, sent a few days ago in which she urged city staff to avoid overly religious messages in their City Hall displays this holiday season,” Dennis McBride wrote in a message to employees.

He went on to say that he received “scores” of emails about the controversy and attached his official response that was sent out to inquiring minds.

According to Mayor McBride, administrators were simply “trying to minimize the discomfort that some people feel” when they see religious holidays being celebrated in government buildings.

He continued to excuse the anti-Christian email with personal justifications and referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Wauwatosa residents are a diverse group. Some are Christian, some are Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist, and some practice no religion at all. My immediate family and I celebrate Christmas. Other members of my extended family, including my Jewish grandsons and biracial nephews,  celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. I imagine that some Christians who come to City Hall might feel uncomfortable if they saw decorations celebrating Muslim holidays.

At this time, a horrible war is being fought in the Middle East over religion. In this country, we have generally avoided religious conflict by welcoming from all over the world and from every faith. Let us all work together for the cause of peace. This holiday season, I will celebrate Christmas at home and at church as I always do, joyfully. Others will decide how to celebrate the season as they wish, as our Constitution guarantees.

Alderman Andrew Meindl, who is running against the incumbent mayor, responded with a list of questions on Facebook, asking why holiday colors are a priority in the city government.


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