28 December 2018

Catholic Senior Living Center Bans Residents From Saying ‘Merry Christmas’

What happens if HUD change the rules? He who pays the piper, calls the tune.

From The Federalist

A senior living center in Chehalis, Washington has banned its residents from saying “Merry Christmas” or displaying any Christmas cards or decorations with any religious significance in common areas.

The trouble started when the building manager at Providence Place in Chehalis told a Christian resident she could not say “Merry Christmas” or hang Christmas cards with religious symbols on her doorframe because the center receives funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the resident, says HUD does not ban funding recipients from celebrating Christmas.

“Americans don’t lose their constitutionally protected freedom to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or otherwise express their faith just because they live in a facility that accepts government funds,” ADF Senior Counsel Matt Sharp said in a statement. “No HUD rule requires senior living centers that accept federal resources to deny their residents the ability to celebrate Christmas with religious songs and symbols.”

On December 3, Assistant Housing Director Katrina Newman sent a letter to residents informing them that Nativity Scenes, the Star of David, and a crucifix were banned from common areas.

“When decorating the common areas and exterior of your community, think festive not religious,” the letter reads.“Greenery, colored lights, snowmen, and snowflakes all convey the festive atmosphere without alluding to a specific religion.”

In a copy of the letter obtained by The Federalist, Newman specifically claims the ban on religious-themed decor is a directive from HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. In two subsequent letters sent to residents on December 7 and December 12, two of Providence Place’s directors said that while the nonprofit senior living center is Catholic, it cannot allow residents to display anything that is “specifically religious in nature.”

In a letter sent to the center earlier this week, ADF attorney Blake Meadows pointed out that HUD has specifically gone out of its way to affirm to its funding recipients that religious symbols are welcome on their property. A HUD press release from 2007 states:

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development continues to strongly support and respect the display of all religious symbols on properties receiving HUD assistance. We discourage anyone from interfering in the free exercise of religion and prohibiting residents from celebrating the joys of the season.

The Federalist reached out to Providence Place for comment multiple times, but did not get a reply.

Bre Payton is a staff writer at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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