No Christian decorations
An American legal firm is challenging the US Forest Service in Arizona for trying to ban children from submitting tree decorations bearing the name of Jesus.
The 85-foot tall blue spruce, which will become the Capitol Christmas tree and adorned with 4000 decorations, has been decorated instead with red-tape that has banned religious expression.
Children across the state were invited to submit decorations that showed their view of life in Arizona as part of the Christmas celebration.
The submissions for the Christmas tree were due in October, but the legal wrangling has caused friction across Arizona and neighbouring states. It all started when a child was banned from handing in a decoration bearing the words ‘Merry Christmas’ alongside a manger scene.
This submission was prohibited by the Forest Service’s stipulation that no ornaments should bear any religious or political messages, but convey messages about ‘Arizona‘.
According to news reports, Jonathan Scruggs, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defence Fund (ADF), is fighting this exclusion on the grounds of the First Amendment. The ADF claims that if schoolchildren want to express their belief through the ornaments, they should be able to do so, particularly when celebrating a Christian festival.
The ADF believes the US Forest Service’s categorisation of decorations is ‘viewpoint discrimination’ – namely that historical, cultural, economic and geographical viewpoints would be accepted on the ornaments, but not views from a religious perspective.
However, these religious views would be just as viable an expression of life in Arizona for the many Christian believers in the state.