Another setback in the War on Christmas:
For as long as anyone can remember, Christmas trees adorned with lights and ornaments have greeted holiday season visitors to [University of North Carolina] Chapel Hill's two main libraries.As symbols go, Christmas trees have about as much religious content as the Easter bunny. Associate Provost Michalak manages to outdo the ACLU, which has never (at least not yet) raised a stink about government sponsorship of holiday decorations, including Christmas trees in public locations.
Not this year.
The trees, which have stood in the lobby areas of Wilson and Davis libraries each December, were kept in storage this year at the behest of Sarah Michalak, the associate provost for university libraries.
Michalak's decision followed several years of queries and complaints from library employees and patrons bothered by the Christian display, Michalak said this week.
In fact, here's a story from a couple years back where officials in Maui, under legal threat from the local ACLU, hastily erected a Christmas tree. Because—I am not making this up—they had a menorah on display. Explanation:
In its letter to the county sent Tuesday, the ACLU cited case law that found government displays of religious symbols on their own could be perceived as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. But government displays that included secular holiday symbols, like Christmas trees, alongside religious symbols, did not endorse religion.So it's not as if the library was an imminent lawsuit target. Instead, it appears that Associate Provost Michalak was most interested in promoting her own religion, brain-dead relativism:
Aside from the fact that a UNC Chapel Hill library is a public facility, Michalak said, libraries are places where information from all corners of the world and all belief systems is offered without judgment. Displaying one particular religion's symbols is antithetical to that philosophy, she said.Indeed. For in this season of joy, peace, generosity, and love, it's just not fair that misery, hatred, selfishness and violence aren't given their fair share of the public discourse. You wouldn't want to foster the impression that the University is taking sides on something like that.
"We strive in our collection to have a wide variety of ideas," she said. "It doesn't seem right to celebrate one particular set of customs."
Over the next few weeks, I suppose Associate Provost Michalak and the (I suspect mostly imaginary) "employees and patrons" who complained will look at the bare empty spots where the Christmas trees used to stand and get a wee bit of black self-satisfaction. I caused that. Me. One suspects that removing a bit of beauty—even secular kitschy beauty—from the lives of others is as good as it gets for them.
To nobody's surprise, many, many more complaints about the trees' absence were generated as a result of the Michalakian action. As a result, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp issued a statement, which is good enough to quote in full:
I understand that the Library staff made the decision not to put up a Christmas tree this year after giving it a lot of thought. The university administration doesn't get involved in decisions like that. Departments can choose to put up a tree or not. And if you take a walk across campus, I think you'll see that. The facade of Memorial Hall, our major performing venue, is fully decorated for the holiday, and The Nutcracker is its major December attraction. Student Stores is like any retailer this time of year. They have a tree decorated with Carolina ornaments in the window and, in the store, there is a mantle decorated with Carolina stockings. The Student Activities Fund Office has a Christmas tree in its window. There's a big Christmas wreath with a Carolina-blue ribbon on it in the Student Union. Our own Carolina Inn is again featuring its Twelve Days of Christmas displays throughout the hotel. And just as we have for the last 59 years, our Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is featuring The Star of Bethlehem.If I may paraphrase Chancellor Thorp: pay no attention to the crazy lady in the library.
So Christmas is recognized on this campus.
Thanks for your interest in Carolina, and have a joyous Christmas season.
I particularly like how Thorp refers to an Associate Provost as "Library staff". In Academia, that's major disrespect.