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Old 10-30-2016, 05:47 PM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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Can hospitals hang Christmas decorations in the US?

I know you guys take separation of church and state very seriously and state and federal facilities have to tread carefully lest they seem to be favouring one religion over another. But do hospitals fall into this category?

Paradoxically my country, England, while far less Christian than the US, doesn't have these problems as Christianity is still officially the religion of the state.
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Old 10-30-2016, 05:50 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Hospitals aren't government-run, and so can do whatever they choose.
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Old 10-30-2016, 05:53 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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Veterans and military hospitals are run by the government. But there is no prohibition against hanging Christmas decorations in government buildings, either. Something inherently religious, like a nativity scene, may raise objections. But trees and Santas and wreaths are fine.

Last edited by friedo; 10-30-2016 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 10-30-2016, 05:57 PM
astorian astorian is online now
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Hospitals aren't government-run, and so can do whatever they choose.
Many hospitals ARE government-run. Even those hospitals would probably put up trees, Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, mistletoe and other secular trappings of Christmas. It's only things like stables with Mary and baby Jesus that might draw ire in some quarters.
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Old 10-30-2016, 05:59 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Many hospitals in the US are owned by religious organization, like the Catholic church. They certainly are allowed to decorate with religious displays.
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Old 10-30-2016, 06:09 PM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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This is strictly about government owned or private owned as far as religious symbols ... government at any level is strictly prohibited from displaying any religious symbols ... secular symbols are open to all ...
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Old 10-30-2016, 06:23 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
This is strictly about government owned or private owned as far as religious symbols ... government at any level is strictly prohibited from displaying any religious symbols ... secular symbols are open to all ...
Emphasis added. Not true. The court has ruled differently depending on the context. For Example, "Ten Commandments" are OK on courthouse grounds as long as they are part of a historical display.
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Old 10-30-2016, 06:34 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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My government office holds a holiday party every December. The same abstractly Christmas-themed decorations get hung up every year, along with some menorah and dreidel iconography. In other words, a superficial ecumenism prevails over a strict secularism. Chances are that no one has ever formally vetted the party's compliance, though.
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Old 10-30-2016, 06:52 PM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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Emphasis added. Not true. The court has ruled differently depending on the context. For Example, "Ten Commandments" are OK on courthouse grounds as long as they are part of a historical display.
Good point ... should be "strictly prohibited from displaying symbols for religious purposes" ... nice catch
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Old 10-30-2016, 07:38 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
Good point ... should be "strictly prohibited from displaying symbols for religious purposes" ... nice catch
IANAL, and unless you are, I'd suggest waiting until one comes in and explains things. Legal decisions are rarely as cut and dry as you are implying. One man's "religious symbol" is another man's "secular display". Besides, the military is not only allowed, but obligated offer services for the various religions. You can be guaranteed that there will be religious symbols displayed during religious services. Chaplains' insignia have been largely made free of religious symbols, but the Army's still has a Bible phrase on it.
  #11  
Old 10-30-2016, 07:43 PM
Riemann Riemann is online now
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IANAL, and unless you are, I'd suggest waiting until one comes in and explains things...
Erm, so all laymen except you should sit quietly and wait for qualified lawyers or you to explain things? Got it.

Last edited by Riemann; 10-30-2016 at 07:44 PM.
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Old 10-30-2016, 07:52 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Erm, so all laymen except you should sit quietly and wait for qualified lawyers or you to explain things? Got it.
No, that's not what I said.

I sent a PM to one of our resident lawyers to pop into this thread and offer his expertise.
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Old 10-30-2016, 08:19 PM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
IANAL, and unless you are, I'd suggest waiting until one comes in and explains things. Legal decisions are rarely as cut and dry as you are implying. One man's "religious symbol" is another man's "secular display". Besides, the military is not only allowed, but obligated offer services for the various religions. You can be guaranteed that there will be religious symbols displayed during religious services. Chaplains' insignia have been largely made free of religious symbols, but the Army's still has a Bible phrase on it.
I was not aware the Army required all soldiers wear a religious insignia ... nor was I aware of any city government requiring their employees to were crosses around their necks ... in the Air Force it was all voluntary, and only if the mission allowed such ... no guaranty of religious services if the M-60 needed ammo fed into it ...

I think your mixing personal liberties and government policies ... meh ... I do remember all the city officials around here getting butthurt over having to take down all the crosses on all city property ... maybe it wasn't a court order ...
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Old 10-30-2016, 08:26 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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I was not aware the Army required all soldiers wear a religious insignia ...
Nor was I, so I guess we're in agreement!
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Old 10-30-2016, 11:32 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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Remember that our "separation of church and state" has two sides to it. While it forbids the government from favoring any particular religion—so a government hospital might be enjoined from posting a substantial display reading "for unto us a Saviour is born this day"—the separation also means the government can't forbid employees or patients from following their religious beliefs so long as they don't interfere with work duties. In practice, in the US, this means a lot of gray—well, red and green—area where the staff put up Christmas trees and host holiday parties for children, but the emphasis will primarily on Santa Claus, "Peace on Earth" wishes, and general winter cheer, rather than a solemn observation of Christian liturgy.
  #16  
Old 10-31-2016, 12:47 AM
sbunny8 sbunny8 is offline
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short answer: a government hospital has three options: (1) allow any and all religious decorations (2) don't allow any religious decorations, or (3) only allow Christian decorations and brace themselves for a lawsuit.
  #17  
Old 10-31-2016, 07:22 AM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is online now
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The great majority of hospitals in the U.S. are privately owned, some by religious groups, and so can put up any Xmas displays that they want (for instance, my Catholic-run hospital system has nativity scenes).

Veterans Administration hospitals apparently can at least put up "secular" decorations at Xmas-time, as long as they're accompanied by symbols connected to other observances that occur around the same time (i.e. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa).

http://www.snopes.com/obama-va-merry...tmas-tree-ban/
  #18  
Old 10-31-2016, 09:07 AM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is offline
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Of course they can

I've worked in the Texas Medical Center area for many years.

All the hospitals put up decorations in December. Mostly lights & greenery & nondenominational stuff. (Well, "official" decorations include lights; employee decorations--which are encouraged--can't be electrified because of safety issues. And all that greenery is fake--safety & allergies!) St Luke's (Episcopal) has a tasteful creche.

Various musical groups volunteer for Christmas concerts in public areas. And there are strategically placed menorahs.

All year around, many hospitals have chapels that alternate between Roman Catholic Masses & Generic Protestant Services. Plus Muslim Prayer Rooms for patients, employees & visitors. Besides chaplains on staff, clergy of all denominations can be called in. Or patients can choose to be religion-free.
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Old 10-31-2016, 09:26 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Besides, the military is not only allowed, but obligated offer services for the various religions.
Quote:
Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
I was not aware the Army required all soldiers wear a religious insignia ...
I would love to hear how "the military is...obligated to offer [religious] services" gets twisted and misinterpreted to mean "the Army required all soldiers wear a religious insignia." Do you even try to understand what people are saying?
  #20  
Old 10-31-2016, 09:45 AM
Alessan Alessan is offline
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To answer the OP:

... yes, but they charge $400 per decoration, and $5,000 for a Christmas tree.
  #21  
Old 10-31-2016, 11:13 AM
CurtC CurtC is online now
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Emphasis added. Not true. The court has ruled differently depending on the context. For Example, "Ten Commandments" are OK on courthouse grounds as long as they are part of a historical display.
The general guideline is that the government can't favor any religion over any other. So they can allow nativity scenes, or Ten Commandments monuments, as long as they're open to having other religious views represented.

The Texas Ten Commandments monument was allowed, however, on the basis that it had been there for a long time. I don't see how that's justification, but that decision was made. Fortunately that was an outlier of a case.
  #22  
Old 10-31-2016, 01:40 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Certainly secular decoration are allowed- Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, green & red , etc.

I did read of the Ten Commandments being allowed as the Code of Hammurabi, etc was also displayed. Makes sense.

Last edited by DrDeth; 10-31-2016 at 01:41 PM.
  #23  
Old 10-31-2016, 02:51 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
Certainly secular decoration are allowed- Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, green & red , etc.

I did read of the Ten Commandments being allowed as the Code of Hammurabi, etc was also displayed. Makes sense.
As noted in the post immediately above yours, you don't always need Hammurabi's Code (or something like).
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Old 10-31-2016, 03:26 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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As noted in the post immediately above yours, you don't always need Hammurabi's Code (or something like).
Yes, I am sure there are other exceptions.
  #25  
Old 10-31-2016, 03:49 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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One easily overlooked nod to Catholicism is the large number of US Cities named after Catholic Saints. It's hard for the city of San Francisco to not display a religious symbol when it's very name is religious in nature. Or the city of Santa Clara (heart of Silicon Valley) whose flag and seal have an image of the Santa Clara Mission on it. Ditto for San Luis Obispo (except it's a different mission building, and only on the seal).

Ironic, too, in a country that was largely anti-Catholic at it's founding, but acquired lands previously settled by the French and Spanish, whose custom was to purposely use religious (Catholic) place names, and which legacy survives in myriad ways today.
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Old 10-31-2016, 04:08 PM
bobot bobot is offline
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The town in which I spent many of my formative years had 2 hospitals- both Catholic. Not only were they decorated for Christmas, but featured permanent displays of Crucifixes, statues and the like.
  #27  
Old 10-31-2016, 11:24 PM
digs digs is offline
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Most people in this country do not treat Christmas as a religious holiday. Seriously, who could get their undies in a bundle over a tree with lights and colored globes, and maybe popcorn or tinsel?

(Well, I've heard a couple of fundamentalists and a knee-jerk atheist act like it's a Tree Personally Planted By Jesus, but not most people)

And, hey, Reindeer? Santa? Elves? Who'd object to those on religious (or anti-religious) grounds?
Oh, and don't forget presents! Getting boxes and stockings full of stuff you don't really need should transcend all ideologies.
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