High School Apologizes for Displaying Christmas Tree

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An Oregon high school apologized after a Christmas tree triggered a Jewish resident who said the display was not inclusive of any other religion.

“This is public property and I mean it’s supposed to be an education for everybody, not just people who are Christian and not just people who are Jewish,” parent Rick Lester told television station KEZI.

“Our understanding is that number one there is separation of church and state, and that number two it seemed very exclusionary of a lot of people who don’t celebrate Christmas.”

First of all, there is no separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution and second of all, that sort of logic would mean the school would have to remove the menorah because a lot of people don’t celebrate Hanukkah.

For now, the beautiful tree remains on display in the lobby of North Eugene High School. But that could change. Some residents have discussed changing the name of the yuletide decor — perhaps a holiday tree or a giving tree?

“Calling something a ‘holiday’ tree does not make it represent multiple religions,” board member Jenny Jonak told the television station. “And making it a ‘giving’ tree implies that one religion is more charitable in nature than others.  It doesn’t change the underlying message that it is a symbol of one religion.”

Jonak was also concerned that it might also cause more problems due to the Middle East war.

“Unless we meaningfully celebrate a diversity of religiously-based holidays, we should not be prioritizing one over others in a public school setting,” she said. “Particularly during a time when hate crimes against Jews and Muslims are at an all time high. “

Principal Nain Munoz apologized not once, but twice, in a letter to parents.

“Our thoughts were to create a seasonal environment encouraging everyone to think of ways to help those less fortunate and give. For many of our school community, our efforts did just that. Unfortunately, for others who did not see their beliefs and traditions reflected in the tree, we missed the mark. For this, I apologize. It was not my intention to make anyone feel excluded or uncomfortable, and I want to acknowledge the presence of the Christmas tree in our school has caused discomfort for some members of our community. As a school, our goal is to ensure all feel welcome and can see themselves reflected in our celebrations and displays. Again, our efforts in this case missed the mark and for that I am sorry. 

As a learning organization charged with helping our students navigate challenges, I am leaning into the lesson by modeling for our students reflection and refinement following my misstep. I will be working with staff, students and our affinity groups to ensure we are expanding the winter display to include the celebrations and traditions of our diverse North Eugene families.

Again, I apologize for the unintended offense experienced by some members of our community and will utilize the resources available, such as our district equity tool, in assessing future requests.”

Principal Munoz

Hundreds of people blasted the school district’s response as well as anyone who got triggered by the tree.

“When I was growing up in the best decade (80’s), we had a huge one in every classroom. Nobody got offended by it,” one resident said. “Christmas is a national holiday as well as a religious one. The tree is not a religious symbol but part of the secular tradition. Nobody was really offended, people just love to whine.

“People that have a problem with a Christmas tree being up are out of their minds. If people have such a huge problem with everything in this country they should just move out of it,” said another. “This is the problem with diversity.”

Others were not terribly surprised to learn that someone got triggered by a tree decorated with lights and ornaments.

“What do you expect from the Eugene area,” one resident said. “Most are a bunch of woke liberals.”

Should schools display Christmas trees?

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