‘Americans don’t lose their constitutionally protected freedom to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or otherwise express their faith just because they live in a facility that accepts government funds…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) A senior-living center in Washington told its residents they can’t say “Merry Christmas,” sing religious carols or hang Christmas wreaths on their apartment doors.
The building manager of Providence Place in Chehalis, Washington, told a resident that any form of religious expression on the building’s property is strictly prohibited by federal law.
The manager wrongly cited its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as an excuse to crack down on a senior citizen who wished to display a Mezuzah, a small religious symbol of Jewish origin, which she was told to remove.
In reality, the HUD strongly supports citizens’ rights to celebrate the Christmas season: “The holiday season is an opportunity to celebrate our diverse traditions and faiths,” the department said in a statement.
“The HUD continues to strongly support and respect the display of all religious symbols on properties receiving HUD assistance. We discourage anyone from interfering in the free exercise of religion and prohibiting residents from celebrating the joys of the season.”
The senior citizen told Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit conservative litigation group, that she is concerned that she will be punished or evicted if she simply says “Merry Christmas” to other residents.
“Americans don’t lose their constitutionally protected freedom to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or otherwise express their faith just because they live in a facility that accepts government funds,” ADF Senior Counsel Matt Sharp said in a statement. “No HUD rule requires senior living centers that accept federal resources to deny their residents the ability to celebrate Christmas with religious songs and symbols.”
In a letter to the senior-living center, ADF stated the building manager has no right to suppress the religious freedom of its residents.
“The right thing to do out of respect for the senior citizens—many of whom fought or saw their spouses fight in wars to defend our nation and the freedoms upon which it is built—is to remove the ban on religious holiday expression,” the letter states.
“Given that your justifications for disallowing religious holiday expression directly contradict the position of HUD on the permissibility of Christmas displays, we hope that this letter will clear up these issues and that you will do away with this terrible policy.”