SALEM, Va. — The Veteran Affairs (VA) hospital in Salem, Virginia reminded workers this week that Christmas trees were banned public spaces within the hospital. The VA hospital is considered a federal workplace and the public should not think the government endorsed one religion over another, hospital officials wrote in an email, obtained by WSLS, to employees.
“Displays must not promote any religion. Please note that trees (regardless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year,” the email read. “Employees are permitted to engage in private religious expression in their personal work areas that are not regularly open to the public. Religious expression will be permitted as long as it does not interfere with carrying out of official duties and responsibilities.”
In response to the backlash it has received since informing workers about the Christmas tree ban, a hospital spokesman told WSLS they would try to strike the right balance between federal regulations and the Christmas spirit.
“Items must be displayed in a manner such that the viewing public would reasonably understand the religious expression to be that of the employee acting in their own personal capacity and not of the government itself,” the letter to employees continued. ” If an employee’s supervisor has previously granted them permission to listen to music in their personal work area, they should be reminded that music travels and should be secular (non-religious) and appropriate to the work environment.”
The hospital planned to meet with workers Friday to discuss the religious regulations.