ICC Note: According to reports, staff at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Centers recently received a letter from the VA stating that no Christmas displays, including Christmas trees, would be permitted in public areas of the clinics. However, following backlash from both employees and veterans, VA administrators came to a compromise last Friday. Following the new regulations, Christmas trees will now be allowed in the public areas, but only if “they are paired with decorations from two other faiths that celebrate a holiday during the holiday season such as Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.”
By Amanda Kenney
11/20/2015 United States (WDBJ7) – Staff at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Centers has never really faced an issue like this before.
“I want the Christmas tree there, whatever they have to do,” says Veteran Nolan Jackson.
The VA recently sent a letter to employees. Saying, “Public areas may only decorated in a manner that is celebratory of the winter season” and that “Displays must not promote any religion.”
That means there would not be a Christmas tree in the V-A’s lobby or in the public areas of VA clinics.
WDBJ7 received phone calls from upset employees and some Veterans we spoke with were not happy.
“Christmas tree does not represent Jesus Christ but it brings a joyful feeling,” said Veteran Bill McMillion.
“This country was founded on christian beliefs and this Christmas tree has been part of this country for a long time,” said Jackson.
VA administrators say they’re just trying to keep in compliance with federal regulations.
The VA Directive 0022, titled “Religious Symbols in Holiday Displays in VA Facilities” states “Religious symbols may be included in a holiday display in a public area of a VA facility if the display does not favor one religion over another, and conveys a primarily secular message. By placing diverse holiday symbols together in the public places of its facilities, VA gives no preference to one holiday above another.”