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Separation of Church Not Applicable to Christmas Decorations

The Constitution says church and state are separate, but court rulings suggest context is key to legally display certain Christmas decorations.
Posted at 6:38 PM, Nov 28, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House. But if the Constitution guarantees a separation of church and state, why aren't those decorations illegal?

There are no black-and-white constitutional rules for holiday displays on government property, but it seems that context is key.

Several Supreme Court cases involving city halls and town squares have led to some nuanced guidelines.

For example, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, elves and reindeer are considered secular decorations, but nativity scenes are religious.

But according to Supreme Court rulings, displaying secular symbols near a nativity scene can be OK.

Another consideration: if a display is in a private or public area.

Although the public can access the White House, it's technically a private residence.

Still, past first families often gave their decorations nonreligious themes.

First lady Melania Trump said this year's White House theme, "Time-Honored Traditions," celebrates holiday traditions at the White House.