Salem VA Medical Center bans Christmas trees as holiday decorations

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.”

An employee sent WSLS 10 a copy of the email sent to employees
An employee sent WSLS 10 a copy of the email sent to employees

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 on 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 today.

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