Government forbids ‘religious themes’ on 5,000 decorations for Capitol’s Christmas Tree

By Bob Unruh
October 1, 2009

The U.S. Forest Service has banned the name of Jesus from decorations being assembled by children in Arizona for a blue spruce from the state that will become the Capitol Christmas Tree this year, and a legal firm is challenging the censorship.

“Banning Christmas from the Capitol Christmas tree is just absurd. Christian students shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their religious beliefs,” said Jonathan Scruggs, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

“The First Amendment does not allow government officials to exclude schoolchildren’s ornaments for the capitol’s Christmas tree merely because they communicate a religious viewpoint,” he said yesterday.

The organization has sent a letter to state and federal officials, including Arizona Gov. Janie Brewer, who are supervising the program, calling on them to stop enforcement of the prohibition.

ADF set a deadline for response of Oct. 4, the day before all the ornaments must be turned in.

But a mother whose child wanted to submit ornaments with holiday themes such as “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” “Merry Christmas” and a manger scene raised her concern with ADF.

“[The child] desires to convey a message about Arizona from his religious perspective via Christmas ornaments. It is well established that expression of religious beliefs is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the ADF letter said. “Religious expression is speech and is entitled to the same level of protection as other kinds of speech.

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