A residence for seniors in Washington state has decided to ban the words “Merry Christmas,” Christmas decorations, Christmas carols that mention Jesus and more – because it claims the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires those actions.
But it doesn’t, say lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom who have written to Providence Place in Chehalis, explaining that those expressions popular during the Christmas season are, in fact, perfectly legal.
They explained the issue came up because a building manager “told a Christian resident that the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits residents from saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ singing Christmas carols that reference Christ, or displaying any decorations or cards referencing the Christian religion during the Christmas season.”
“In truth, no federal law prohibits such Christmas expression,” the ADF said.
“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,” said Matt Sharp, a senior counsel to the ADF. “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.”
The ADF said it has written a letter to the center, asking for confirmation that people who live there will be given access to their constitutional rights.
A WND request to the center for comment Tuesday did not generate a response.
The resident, the ADF explained, simply “desires to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to other residents and sing Christmas carols containing religious references in the public common areas of the complex. She also desires to display Christmas cards with religious messages alongside nonreligious Christmas cards on the door to her apartment, a common practice in the building.”
The ban on “Merry Christmas” was expressed to the resident by the building manager, Katrina Newman, the letter explains.
“Interestingly, Ms. Newman permitted a Menorah in the public space ‘because it was cultural expression,'” the letter notes.
But the statements and instructions leave the resident “concerned that she will be punished or even evicted from Providence Place for engaging in private religious expression and celebration.”
The ADF letter explains that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is a limit on government, but not on private speakers.
“Because Providence Place is a private, non-profit corporation – not a government controlled entity – it is not bound by the Establishment Clause’s prohibition on the government endorsement of religion. Indeed, Providence Place is free to allow the residents to engage in religious discussion and prayer,” the letter explains.
“Furthermore, HUD does not prohibit discussion about religion in the facilities to which it provides funding.”
In fact, a previous statement from HUD notes, “We discourage anyone from interfering in the free exercise of religion and prohibiting residents from celebrating the joys of the season.”
“Simply because the government provides a benefit with public funds does not mean that all ‘mention [of] religion or prayer’ must be whitewashed,” the ADF said.
“Providence Place’s belief that it is required to suppress religious speech under the Fair Housing Act is incorrect and unwise,” the ADF suggested. Its ban may even be a violation of state and federal non-discrimination statutes, the letter said.
“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 ADF said. “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.”