A South Carolina cancer center that gave Santa Claus the boot has reversed its decision, but said they will ban any Christmas decorations that are religious in nature – including the Nativity.
The Hollings Cancer Center in Charleston, SC, created a firestorm of yuletide controversy after they told a volunteer that he would not be allowed to dress up as Santa Claus.
A spokeswoman for the cancer center told Fox News & Commentary that because of their state affiliation, they had decided not to have a Santa presence. There were also some complaints from patients.
“A volunteer had dressed up as Santa and some folks complained that they felt excluded – or that their beliefs didn’t line up with this,” Hollings spokeswoman Vicky Agnew told Fox News. “In an effort to honor as many of the cultural and ethnic beliefs that we see here in South Carolina, we thought we would downplay a Santa presence this year.”
Their Santa ban lasted about two days – on Wednesday – they reversed course.
“Perhaps we stumbled here,” Agnew said. “We are very well aware that Santa is not a religious figure, but we are a state institution and we wanted to tone down the overt commercial and any religious aspects to it.”
Frank Cloyes, the volunteer who played Old Saint Nick, told the Post and Courier newspaper that kids love the character.
“Santa is a tradition and everyone loves him,” he told the newspaper – wondering where “political correctness and overregulation will end.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of strong and passionate responses,” Agnew said. “At the heart of any decision we made is really what we hope will be beneficial to the patients – their health and their emotional well-being.”
So Santa gets a reprieve – but religious-themed Christmas decorations do not.
“That still stands,” Agnew said. “We’ve got a diverse population here and a lot of folks celebrate the season differently – or don’t celebrate it.”
Hollings will not allow any religious symbols – at all.
“No Nativity scenes,” Agnew said. “We’re a state institution. We can’t do that anyway.”
She said the decoration rules were meant to protect patients.
“It was our attempt to try and be non-controversial and have folks who come here for treatment maybe not be distracted,” she said.
She said the hospital does have an “Angel Tree” – to help underprivileged children. The cancer center will also be able to have wreaths and garland.
If the reason to ban Santa was to not offend patients – why did they decide to reverse the ban?
“You know, that’s a really good question,” Agnew told Fox. “I think what we’re going to try and do is not only allow Santa, but also take pains to acknowledge the other holidays that are celebrated at this time. We have to really evaluate this.”