UNC Libraries Throw Out Christmas Trees

For as long as anyone can remember, Christmas trees adorned with lights and ornaments have greeted holiday season visitors to UNC Chapel Hill’s two main libraries.

Not this year.

The trees, which have stood in the lobby areas of Wilson and Davis libraries each December, were kept in storage this year at the behest of Sarah Michalak, the associate provost for university libraries.

Michalak’s decision followed several years of queries and complaints from library employees and patrons bothered by the Christian display, Michalak said this week.

Michalak said that banishing the Christmas displays was not an easy decision but that she asked around to library colleagues at Duke, N.C. State and elsewhere and found no other one where Christmas trees were displayed.

Aside from the fact that a UNC Chapel Hill library is a public facility, Michalak said, libraries are places where information from all corners of the world and all belief systems is offered without judgment. Displaying one particular religion’s symbols is antithetical to that philosophy, she said.

“We strive in our collection to have a wide variety of ideas,” she said. “It doesn’t seem right to celebrate one particular set of customs.”

Michalak, chief librarian for four years, said at least a dozen library employees have complained over the last few years about the display. She hasn’t heard similar criticism from students, though they may have voiced concerns to other library staff.

Public libraries generally shy away from creating displays promoting any single religion, said Catherine Mau, deputy director of the Durham County library system, where poinsettias provided by a library booster group provide holiday cheer.

One thought on “UNC Libraries Throw Out Christmas Trees

  • December 5, 2008 at 10:05 am

    This is absolutely rediculous! Since a large portion of the world do in fact call themselves Christians and Christmas trees have been the tradition for a long time, I have to say that I am very disappointed with the decision here. We have what you call freedom of religion and freedom of speech here in the United States of America. If they want to put Christmas trees in the library let them do it for freedom’s sake! It’s all just a conspiracy to slowly eradicate Christianity. It is happening everywhere. We have already phased out saying Merry Christmas or putting up signs because someone might get offended! Oh my gosh, we don’t want to offend anyone! Get over it people, this country was founded with certain freedoms for a reason, but they are slowly being taken away! I really dislike when people use the first ammendment as backup for their anti-religion moves. They always wave the first bit of it in your face without reading the rest of it. In case you didn’t know, I’ll write the next two bits as well: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech”. Now, a lot of people will take that first part and run with it, claiming that it means you cannot do or say anything having to do with religion in or near an establishment funded by government. Oh but you must have missed the other part, FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND SPEECH. This law was in fact put in place to prevent exactly what is happening now. The prevention of freedom of religion. Whether in school, work, home, or whatever. Obviously private establishments can put in place whatever rules they want and that’s fine. That is their right! But if my kid wants to pray to his God at school, he damn sure better be allowed to! Otherwise what are you teching him about our founders? I could go on for ever but I will stop now. Thanks for reading if you got this far.

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