University Administrator Declares Christmas 'Forbidden'

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - An administrator at California State University, Sacramento has banned decorations pertaining to Christmas and the 4th of July, among other holidays, from her office because they represent "religious discrimination" and "ethnic insensitivity."

"Time has come to recognize that religious discrimination, as well as ethnic insensitivity to certain holidays, is forbidden," Patricia Sonntag, director of the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities, stated in the directive she e-mailed to members of her staff on Dec. 9.

Cybercast News Service obtained the directive from the non-profit Catholic League, which "defends the right of Catholics ... to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination," according to its website. The content of the e-mail was confirmed by the university.

The memo specifically names Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine's Day, the 4th of July, St. Patrick's Day and Easter as the most offensive holidays, but Sonntag adds that they are "off the top of the list," implying that there may be others.

She wrote that the ban was being implemented "in order to avoid offending someone else" because Sacramento State is "a secular university and we are a public service area that has a diverse employee and student populations [sic] even in our private offices."

Sonntag noted that she is "the worst offender and celebrant," and apologized "if this offends anyone, but it is time to start the new year differently."

A Nov. 28 profile of Sonntag in the university's faculty and staff newsletter stated that she and her office "Have been the cornerstone of equality and progress here on campus."

But the university associate vice president for public affairs, Frank Whitlatch, distanced the university from Sonntag's policy, saying in a prepared statement that it "was well-intentioned but strays from the established practice."

He stated that the university "has no guidelines prohibiting holiday decorations," aside from the responsibility of supervisors, "to ensure that employees do not spend an unreasonable amount of work time decorating."

Whitlatch echoed Sonntag's sentiments that Sacramento State "is a public entity ... and employees do not endorse specific religious beliefs while on the job."

Catholic League president Bill Donohue called the policy a violation of free speech rights. "It never occurs to these secular supremacists that it is their aversion to anything religious - or patriotic - that accounts for their desire to muzzle free speech."

A receptionist in Sonntag's office told Cybercast News Service that Sonntage was on vacation. The office's assistant director, Teresa Mendick, did not return calls requesting comment for this article.

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