A North Carolina community college has been accused of violating the First Amendment rights of students after they told a club they could not use the word “Christmas” to promote a Christmas tree sale.
“It’s ridiculous that anyone would have to think twice about using the word ‘Christmas’ as part of a Christmas tree sale,” said Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom.
ADF sent a letter to officials at Western Piedmont Community College urging them to either reconsider their decision to censor the word “Christmas” – or else face a possible lawsuit.
College officials did not return multiple phone calls and email messages seeking comment.
The student club, called the BEST Society, was planning to sell the Christmas trees to raise money for Angel Tree, an organization that provides Christmas presents to children.
Club members followed college protocol and submitted forms to promote the sale. The proposed text read, “The BEST Society will be selling Christmas Trees…”
But when the announcement appeared on the college’s website and in other venues – it had been altered. Ever reference to “Christmas Trees” had been replaced with “holiday trees.”
Attorney Sharp said students immediately contacted the college’s community relations director to find out what happened.
The community relations director allegedly told the students, “We cannot market your trees in association solely with a Christian event.”
As a result of the change, the club began receiving complaints from the community – and some customers told the students they would not purchase trees because of the change in wording.
“Not only is it perfectly constitutional to use the word ‘Christmas,’ it is unconstitutional to prohibit use of it,” Sharp said. “This is another perfect example of the immense misunderstanding that far too many college officials have about what the First Amendment truly requires.”