The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
Murray State does a good job of staying neutral with holiday festivities and decorations.
For example, the university does not explicitly say “Merry Christmas,” but rather “Happy Holidays.”
Legally, the university cannot discriminate based on religion or any other similar characteristic, such as sex or age. In fact, Murray State makes a valiant effort to be as inclusive as possible – just ask those on the president’s commission for diversity and inclusion. Yet, murmurs of representation may arise as the season continues on.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a fight put up by students to see more than wreaths and a large tree, though – likely because those who associate themselves with a religion outside of the Christian denomination happen to live or attend school where Christianity is the dominant.
According to Sperling’s Best Places’ 2014 numbers, 59.2 percent of the people in Murray are religious, meaning they affiliate with a religion. About 2 percent are Catholic; 1 percent affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; 1.94 percent are another Christian faith.
Here is a list of December holidays, according to EducationWorld.com:
- Eid al-Fitr
- Saint Nicholas Day
- Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe
- St. Lucia Day
- Christmas Day
- Three Kings Day/Epiphany
- Boxing Day
Murray State has no way of knowing we want these other religious holidays represented on campus unless we make that request. The fact that Christmas symbols can dominate the region isn’t really their fault – it’s just the way things are.
The university is going to stick to phrasing like “Happy Holidays” and continue to put up holiday decorations that may or may not be Christmas-like until enough people ask for something different or something else.
It’s certainly not ideal, but when it comes down to it, universities have a legal obligation to not promote or appear to promote certain religions.
We have thousands of students at this university from different states, countries and religious backgrounds, and we’re not denying that’s a lot to accommodate.
When you have the diversity this university has, not everyone’s beliefs and religions can necessarily be represented. In the end, it’s up to the individual to celebrate how they see fit – that responsibility doesn’t fall on the university or any other university across the nation, for that matter.
According to the guidelines regarding religious symbols, decorations and displays at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, “the university should protect the right of individuals to celebrate religious holidays by decorating their personal space.”
Murray State promotes diversity and equal representation of all. To only show representation and support for one religion during the holiday season is contradictory to that goal, but that does not mean each and every student on campus can’t cover themselves in red and green every day and set up the most impressive nativity scene the world has ever seen right in their residential college room.
On that note, if you want a menorah in the Curris Center, ask administrators to put one there. If you would like to celebrate Kwanzaa on campus, we highly doubt anybody would stop you. If you feel like Boxing Day deserves more of a presence on Murray State, more power to you.
Everything isn’t just black and white/red and green.
You have a First Amendment right to celebrate whatever you want, and if you’ve forgotten that, it’s time to remember.