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Missouri State University recently released a set of holiday decoration guidelines, establishing the university’s policy on which holiday symbols are secular and which ones are considered religious. KSMU’s Brett Moser reports.
During the holiday season of 2007, the displaying of a Christmas tree in the lobby of Strong Hall received criticism from some in the university community who believed the display did not fairly promote other holidays. Now, the university hopes its new set of guidelines will eliminate any controversy or misunderstanding about which decorations are appropriate in public spaces.The new guidelines state that decorating using religious symbols is not appropriate in the common areas of university buildings. This means items such as The Nativity Scene, a Menorah, or drawings of any religious figures are not allowed in public areas. The university said religious symbols can be used if they are part of a display celebrating religious diversity or religious freedom. General Council for MSU, Clif Smart, says these guidelines allow for certain secular decorations to be put on display in common spaces. Smart says these guidelines are in accordance with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.The College of Humanities is the department that put up the display in Strong Hall this year and last. The lobby decorations currently consist of a Christmas tree and a Menorah, even though a Menorah is listed in MSU’s new guidelines as a religious symbol and not appropriate for common areas. But Active Dean of the college, Victor Matthews, says on the second floor of the building, there’s a display case showing materials from many cultures’ religious holidays, which he says is important to emphasize.MSU faculty and staff are allowed to decorate their personal space with both secular and sacred materials. Likewise, students living on campus may put up holiday decorations in their residence hall rooms, but must still follow rules set forth by the Guide to Residence Hall Living.For KSMU News, I’m Brett Moser.