No Christ in Christmas for Florida Senior Center

12 11 2007

Filed under: Plant City Living Center, Christmas, Church and State, First Amendment, Christianity

As Christmas nears, these unfortunate stories surface as a few organizations listen to misinformed advice about banning religious symbols from Christmas decor, plays, songs etc. One of the first of the year is Plant City Living Center in Plant City, FL, who told an 85-year old grandmother that she and her fellow residents are not allowed to place any religious words or Christmas items in the common areas of the apartment building.

According to the center, HUD has issued a directive banning “any religious symbols or religious words associated with Christmas”, which effectively prevents the Mrs. Arnolds of Small Town, America from placing a small Christmas tree outside their humble doors if it contains any religious symbols or words.

Mrs. Arnold contacted American Family Association, who issued an immediate email alert and notified Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel learned that the Center relied on deluded information (pdf) from an outside organization, which states in part:

Christmas Trees, Hanukkah Menorahs, Santa Claus, Season’s Greetings, snowmen, and wreaths are all acceptable icons that are associated with Christmas… Any religious symbols or religious words associated with Christmas should not be used. For example, the following items should not be on display: nativity scenes, the Star of David, angels, etc. This means no angel on your Christmas tree either… This decorating information applies to all common areas, including but not limited to: hallways, offices, community rooms, entrances, etc…. If your community does something like this, it must be open to all residents and be made widely known that all residents regardless of religious affiliation are invited to attend. To be on the safe side you can always call them “Holiday” parties.

From Liberty Counsel’s news release:

Liberty Counsel has issued a letter to the facility setting forth the correct law and has offered pro bono legal representation to make sure the facility permits Christmas decorations. This outside organization, which issued the memo upon which the Center relied, did the same thing last year to another similar facility. Liberty Counsel intervened in those cases and contacted The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which contacted the director of the facility and advised that the federal law did not prohibit religious decorations. In fact, banning religious Christmas decorations would violate federal law.

According the The Fair Housing Act, organizations are prohibited from discriminating against residents on the basis of religion. Christmas is a nationally recognized holiday. To prohibit Mrs. Arnold from displaying Christmas decor in a federally subsidized or managed residential facility violates the Fair Housing Act and other federal laws.

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