Virginia VA Medical Center bans Christmas trees as holiday decorations

A Russian Christian pilgrim is seen praying inside the Church of Nativity, believed by many to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Mesezhnikov said he is expecting about 70,000 tourists to head to the town of Jesus' birthplace for Christmas. Israeli and Palestinian officials have worked closely in recent years to coordinate the movement of pilgrims. (AP Photo/ Tara Todras-Whitehill)

SALEM (WSLS 10) – Christmas trees will not be allowed at the Salem VA Medical Center this holiday season in public areas.

“Displays must not promote any religion. Please note that 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,” reads an email sent to employees. “Employees are permitted to engage in private religious expression in their personal work areas that are not regularly open to the public. Religious expression will be permitted as long as it does not interfere with carrying out of official duties and responsibilities.”

salem-va-letterThe letter explains “When the public (Veterans and beneficiaries) accesses the Federal workplace, their reasonable impression should be that the government is not sponsoring or endorsing on religion over another.”

Brian Sipp, a Salem VA spokesman says after the initial message was sent out they received a lot of backlash and emails and now they are trying to find a balance between celebrating the holidays and federal law.

“This is still very new and nothing is defined and definite yet,” said Sipp.

There is an employee meeting today.


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