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.

Hospitals aren’t government-run, and so can do whatever they choose.

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.

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.

Many hospitals in the US are owned by religious organization, like the Catholic church. They certainly are allowed to decorate with religious displays.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 …

Nor was I, so I guess we’re in agreement!

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.

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.

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).

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.

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?

To answer the OP:

… yes, but they charge $400 per decoration, and $5,000 for a Christmas tree.