PHOENIX, Arizona, September 30, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) called on Arizona state and federal officials on Monday to stop enforcing a requirement prohibiting the state's schoolchildren from expressing religious viewpoints through Christmas themes while decorating ornaments for the 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree.
Arizona was chosen this year to present 4,000 handcrafted ornaments made by elementary, middle-school, and high-school students to decorate Washington, D.C.'s annual Christmas tree.
Guidelines for the ornaments include specifications for their size, weight, composition, and the directive that "Ornaments cannot reflect a religious or political theme… Instead share your interpretation of our theme 'Arizona's Gift, from the Grand Canyon State.'"
In a letter to federal and state officials, including Arizona Governor Janice Brewer, ADF attorneys demanded that they abandon the discrimination against religious viewpoints.
"Banning Christmas from the Capitol Christmas tree is just absurd. Christian students shouldn't be discriminated against for expressing their religious beliefs," said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Jonathan Scruggs.
"The First Amendment does not allow government officials to exclude schoolchildren's ornaments for the capitol's Christmas tree merely because they communicate a religious viewpoint."
The request was issued on behalf of a mother whose son expressed a strong desire to submit three religious ornaments for the tree: One reading "Merry Christmas," another "Happy Birthday, Jesus," and the third portraying a manger scene with the Christ child.
Each of these ornaments will also honor Arizona, using as a theme the state's history, geography, or motto, "Ditat Deus," which means "God Enriches."
ADF attorneys indicate in the letter that they will take legal action if officials do not comply by October 4, the day before the deadline to submit ornaments for consideration.
"It is well established that expression of religious beliefs is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," the letter reads. "Religious expression is speech and is entitled to the same level of protection as other kinds of speech ... even expression that comes through symbols, such as ornaments."