MSU Struggles to Define Non-Religious Christmas Decor

A year-old controversy, to keep Christmas trees off the Missouri State campus, should be laid to rest this holiday.

The university just came out with a new decoration guideline that should answer any questions about what’s appropriate.

“That’s our goal, no controversy,” says Clif Smart, Missouri State General Counsel.

Last year the “C” in Christmas might as well have stood for controversy.

“I just don’t see what’s so religious about some tinsel and some lights,” says Tiffany Montileone, MSU student.

But last year, it was, at least, argued. Even Missouri’s governor weighed-in in favor of the tree.

“I personally don’t see the harm in it,” says Montileone.

This year, though, the university wants to make clear what is appropriate for holiday decor. MSU has divided how people can decorate in certain areas like common space and personal space.

“You wouldn’t see a nativity scene for example or any religious symbol of any religion unless that was a part of a display celebrating diversity, religious freedom,” says Smart.

In Strong Hall on the second floor, there is a display that shows different religions and holidays. It is clear that was put together to celebrate diversity. On the first floor, however, there is a Christmas tree, which is not considered a religious symbol. At news time, there was a Menorah also on display on the first floor, which is considered a religious symbol according to the University’s new guideline. At new time, KSPR was not able to get a reason as to why the two were placed beside one another. We talked to a University official, and they said they are looking into the matter.

However, dorms and offices are free space. A person can decorate their personal space anyway they see fit. In the meantime, though, the tree will stay.

“I think overall people are fairly indifferent about it,” says Brandon Dirickson. “You see it everywhere.”

“I think it’s gorgeous,” says Erin Wibbenmeyer. “I love the Christmas tree here, and I’m glad they put it back up.”

The University considers the following items religious symbols that “would generally be inappropriate for use in holiday decorations in common areas of the University”: The Nativity Scene, A Cross or Crucifixion, A Menorah, The Star of David, The Star and Crescent, Drawings of Jesus or Mohammed, The Bible of Koran.

The University considers the following items “decorations which are appropriate for use in common areas of University buildings because they are not religious symbols”: Flowers, Greenery, Wreaths, Christmas Trees, Bells, Snowmen, Winter Scenes, Santa Claus, Animals, Ribbon, Flags, and Pilgrims.

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