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University Bans Christmas Songs at Lighting of “Unity Tree”

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/09/15

Seriously? From the James Madison University newspaper in Virginia:

Into Hymn, the only Christian a cappella group on JMU’s campus, was invited to sing at this year’s annual Unity Tree lighting ceremony hosted by the Student Government Association Friday.

“We spent a lot of time and effort to prepare an arrangement of the song ‘Mary, Did You Know?’ and were excited as we were invited this year,” Michaela Kim, a senior education major and member of Into Hymn, said.

However, Into Hymn declined the SGA’s offer upon learning earlier in the week that the group wouldn’t be able to sing its rehearsed piece because it represented a specific religion.

“We represent the Christian faith; that is what our music is all about,” Kim said.

According to Kim, SGA then gave the group a list of secular songs they would be able to sing instead.

Kim said that the list of approved songs e-mailed to Into Hymn included “Frosty the Snowman,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bells” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

When asked to comment on the decision, the SGA leadership team provided a statement highlighting the intent of the tree lighting.

“In regards to the Tree Lighting event this past Friday evening, we want to ensure that everyone understands the event’s main purpose is to bring together the entire student body before the start of finals for an evening of entertainment and food,” the statement says.

But wait: there’s more. The university had no trouble 48 hours later with the lighting of a giant menorah:

“JMU is a public university, so because it was a school-sponsored event, the song choice needed to be secular,” JMU spokesman Bill Wyatt tells Campus Reform. “The university made the decision to only sing secular songs.” But two days later, the school took a very different approach towards a non-Christian religion. On Sunday evening, the student government assisted in the lighting of a giant 12-foot-tall menorah on campus in order to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The party included traditional Jewish foods and was attended by the university’s president. While the event was put on by JMU’s Jewish student group, it received more than $2,000 in funding from the student government. JMU did not immediately explain why Christmas songs were too religious to be allowed, but the public Hanukkah event was not.

Photo: Alexis Miller/The Breeze

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