A federal ban on Christmas trees and Christmas carols recently sparked outrage in Virginia. Christian Today reports the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center received an email saying that it could not display Christmas decorations or play Christmas music because doing so would promote Christianity.
According to the email, "Trees (regardless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year."
It continued, "Public areas may only be decorated in a manner that is celebratory of the winter season," and "displays must not promote any religion.”
Additionally, "Music travels and should be secular (non-religious) and appropriate to the work environment.”
Pastor John Sines, Jr. of Rock Pike Baptist Church, who regularly performs at the VA Hospital, said he was told he couldn’t sing anything with the words “Christ” or “Christmas.”
Sines told the VA Hospital that he would not abide by the new regulations.
"I let those folks know I wasn't going to be bullied into their way of thinking.”
"My agenda wasn't so I could push Jesus on the veterans. I just wanted to honour the veterans and to say thank you,” he said.
The VA has now come up with a compromise that will allow Christmas decoration and music, after complaints from Sines, employees and the community. Christmas-specific decorations will be permitted at the hospital, as long as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa decorations are also displayed.
According to the VA, "This compromise allows for the Salem VAMC to be in full compliance with Federal mandates that prohibit US government facilities, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, from 'favouring one religion over another' while providing the diversity and flexibility for employees and Veterans to celebrate the holidays according to their individual faith structure.”
Publication date: November 25, 2015