James Madison University (JMU), a public university in Virginia, banned a student group from singing a religiously-themed Christmas carol but then allowed a Jewish group to publicly light a giant menorah.
Last Friday, JMU rang in the holiday period by holding a ceremony to celebrate the lightning of a “unity tree,” so named to avoid saying the word Christmas. All of the school’s singing groups were invited to perform at the ceremony, including a Christian group named Into Hymn.
According to The Breeze, Into Hymn wanted to perform the song “Mary, Did You Know?” but was shot down because the song is Christian in nature.
Instead, the group was given a list of acceptable non-religious songs, such as “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Winter Wonderland.” Ultimately, Into Hymn decided not to perform in protest against the restriction.
The decision, made by JMU’s Student Government Association, is apparently intended to avoid any endorsement of religion at a public event.
“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 over $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.
“I’m not familiar with any event where the university banned Christmas songs,” Wyatt tells The Daily Caller News Foundation, despite having told The Breeze about just such a ban a few days ago.
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