Federal officials who earlier banned “holiday” ornaments bearing a representation of the Nativity, Jesus, an angel or other religious symbols have relented, allowing a grandma in a Florida senior living center to enjoy an angel atop the facility’s Christmas tree.

“I am pleased to report that the Plant City Living Center’s recent newsletter regarding holiday decoration policies has been rescinded,” said a statement issued by a spokesman concerning the issue at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development facility.

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guarantees the rights of citizens to display religious symbols in public. We support that guarantee,” the statement added.

“I want to take this opportunity to reiterate to you … that Plant City Living Center respects the religious beliefs of all of its residents. In furtherance of that policy, Plant City Living Center allows residents to decorate their apartments and the exterior areas of their apartments in any manner they choose,” the statement said.

The issue arose recently at the center in Plant City, Fla., where 85-year-old Mrs. Arnold was told that federal law now prohibits her from displaying anything that references religion – words, decorations and the like – in the common area of her apartment building, a HUD facility.

As WND reported, the American Family Association responded with a petition drive to overturn the decision.

The AFA set up a link to allow constituents to send e-mails to the HUD secretary or President Bush expressing their objections to the policy. And within a day, the response was forthcoming.

The grandmother told AFA she has been instructed that even an angel decoration would be disallowed by the ban.

According to the center, HUD had issued a directive banning “any religious symbols or religious words associated with Christmas,” which effectively prevented Mrs. Arnold from placing a small Christmas tree outside her door if it contains any religious symbols or words – “even an angel,” AFA said in a special alert asking for e-mails.

A spokeswoman at the center who preferred not to give her name told WND staff members were instructed that the rules prevented displays “like a manger, like a Christ child, any religious symbols.”

“We used to have a sign outside that said, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season,’ but we can’t anymore,” she told WND. “We’re all very unhappy about that.”

The building has about 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors who are at least 62 years old.

“If the residents want to have a Christmas party in their community room, they cannot call it a Christmas party. The Center says HUD directs residents not to use the word ‘Christmas’ but to use the word ‘holiday,'” the AFA advisory said.

“A Sunday School class from a church near Mrs. Arnold’s apartment comes every year to host a Hanging of the Greens and Christmas Party for all the residents. She said the highlight of their Christmas Party comes at the very end of The Hanging of the Greens when someone places the angel on top of their Christmas tree. Their tradition is now banned by the federal government,” the AFA said.

The family group noted the federal government has become increasingly active in banning Christianity from the public square, citing the National Park Service’s efforts to conceal the words “Laus Deo,” which is Latin for “Praise Be to God” at the Washington Monument, and the move by a Veterans Administration official to ban the script of a flag-folding ceremony that mentions “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” at 100 national cemeteries.

However, “both of these were rescinded after AFA supporters sent e-mails to proper authorities,” the AFA said. In the case of the Washington Monument dispute, Park Service officials told WND they got 26,000 e-mails in a morning.

WND also reported earlier this week that government officials in Fort Collins, Colo., are considering new regulations for Christmas decorations that appear to ban red and green lights because they are too religious.

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