Officials of Pasco County in Florida have banned the display of Christmas trees in public buildings, an act the American Center for Law and Justice called the most extreme example of censorship imaginable.
The last of the Christmas trees were removed on Wednesday after officials agreed with complaints labeling the trees as religious symbols.
According to Dan Johnson, assistant county administrator for Public Services, the ban stemmed from the Countys investigation on whether a menorah could be displayed at a public building, reported the Associated Press. The attorney investigating the case then decided that Christmas trees were also religious symbols.
On Thursday, the Washington D.C.-based ACLJ sent a letter to Pasco County officials, urging them to reverse the decision which removed Christmas trees from county facilities including libraries, recreation centers and community centers.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never said that government may not display
Christmas trees during the Christmas holiday season, ACLJs Senior Counsel Francis J. Manion wrote in the letter to Pasco County Administrator John J. Gallagher.
In fact, the Court has said the opposite, continued the letter. An ACLJ press release backed the statement by referring to the Courts 1989 ruling saying, The Christmas tree, unlike the menorah, is not itself a religious symbol. Although Christmas trees once carried religious connotations, today they typify the secular celebration of Christmas.
The decision to remove Christmas trees in county facilities is not only wrong, but based on a flawed understanding of the law, stated Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, who has argued five cases issues at the Supreme Court.
The law is very clear in this area: government officials can display Christmas trees without the fear of violating the constitution, he continued. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld such displays. We call on county officials to reverse this outrageous decision and permit the constitutional display of Christmas decorations including the Christmas tree.