City Officials in Wauwatosa Retract Christmas Ban

Nov 15, 2023

WAUWATOSA, WI – After Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter on Monday to the City of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, regarding its unconstitutional ban on Christmas holiday symbols, decorations, and expressions within public buildings and by its employees, City Administrator Jim Archambo quickly backpedaled the directive.

Archambo’s newest memo states: 

“We'd like to add clarity around an email message sent to employees on Thursday, Nov. 9 by our Deputy City Administrator regarding holiday décor. City leaders, as a team, decided that this was an appropriate communication based on concerns from residents regarding decorations in public spaces. 

The original email was not: 

* A policy directive 

* A requirement to decorate or not decorate a certain way 

* Telling employees they cannot bring their full selves to work 

* Telling employees they cannot decorate their individual work spaces 

* Telling individuals how to decorate their homes or businesses 

The original email was: 

* In reference to public spaces in government buildings 

* Asking our employees to consider all members of our community before deciding how to decorate public spaces in city-owned government buildings 

* Asking employees to consider the values of equity and inclusion identified in our strategic plan 

* After considering others, making employees aware that they are free to decorate in the manner they have historically decorated or alter their decorations to be more inclusive at their discretion 

If you have questions, please contact your department director. 

Thank you for your time and attention to allow us to address this matter further, provide additional background and clarify the intent of the communication.”

Archambo and Deputy City Administrator Melissa Cantarero Weiss previously sent an email on November 9 emphasizing the need to be “inclusive” and “equitable” a combined nine times. Despite acknowledging that Christmas is a significant holiday for many, the administrators stated the need to “foster a more equitable and inclusive community” for those who don’t celebrate Christmas and required that decorations be “neutral” and “celebrate the season without favoring any particular belief system.” 

Archambo and Weiss provided a list of acceptable decorations: 

  1. “Winter wonderland – snowflakes, snow people [sic], and other non-religious symbols associated with winter.
  2. Lights and greenery – festive lighting and greenery can create a warm and welcoming atmosphere without specific religious connotations.
  3. Northern lights – draw inspiration from the aurora borealis and incorporate colors like blue, green, and purple.” 

Liberty Counsel’s demand letter stated, “The Christmas holiday ban violates the U.S. Constitution by showing hostility toward Christianity. The First Amendment does not permit the City to eliminate Christmas holiday symbols or expression in a misguided attempt to be ‘inclusive’ by eliminating all traditional elements of expression regarding a federally and state recognized holiday.”

Wauwatosa officials have now backtracked. The original email clearly warned employees to refrain from using “traditional” Christmas decorations, including red and green. The new communication after receiving Liberty Counsel’s demand letter now states that employees “are free to decorate in the manner they have historically decorated or alter their decorations to be more inclusive at their discretion.” In other words, as the law requires, these employees can decorate as they wish without the threat of punishment. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The City of Wauwatosa has gladly retreated from its Orwellian and unconstitutional Christmas decoration ban after receiving our demand letter. Now the city employees can celebrate the Christmas holiday consistent with their faith and the law.” 

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