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.”
The 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 one 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 Friday.
In Tampa Bay area, the representatives with the Bay Pines VA Medical Center confirmed that there will be a holiday tree in the building with the decorations suitable and “appropriate” for all religions.