Phi Beta Cons

“Less is More”

I received the following memo from a friend in the Illinois university system yesterday. It comes from the Dean of Southern Illinois School of law, a school that recently lost a recent and important decision in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after it de-recognized the Christian Legal Society. This particular memo deals with Christmas — or, more precisely, the “government holiday called ‘Christmas.’” The banal, politically-correct academic censorship is priceless: 

Dear Colleagues:
It is time for my annual email about holiday displays. Many members of the Law School community want to display decorations to celebrate the holiday season, but Christmas is tricky business for all public entities. When we decorate, we must be mindful of a couple of things:
First, the government holiday called “Christmas” is a secular event and not a religious event. Therefore, the holiday displays throughout the Law School should not be in the form of religious symbols; they should be secular in nature. We will have an artificial tree in the formal lounge to recognize the season, but it will be decorated with bows and candy canes, and our students will be encouraged to eat the candy canes for quick energy during their finals. The tree was donated to the Law School with private funds along with the bows and candy canes. Other than the tree and a holiday plant or two, I do not plan for the Deans’ Suite to have any other holiday displays. If you would like to decorate your offices, that is fine. However, I encourage everyone to be mindful of the separation of Church and State and urge you to use secular holiday displays at the office and leave all religious displays at home.
Second, this is a place of business and, no matter what we do, we should remember that less is more! Let us keep our holiday decorations simple, tasteful and professional.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Classic. I wonder if there are similar memos floating around about other forms of faculty and staff expression on campus? Are faculty told that “less is more” when it comes to political posters, diversity messages, or other forms of communication that would tend to place state employees on one side or the other of political, ideological, and religious controversies? As I read this memo, however, there are at least two positives. First, since the Dean has censored his religious students, at least he is demonstrating admirable consistency in censoring his religious employees. And, second, though the Dean is well-versed in academic jargon (I particularly love the label “government holiday called ‘Christmas’”), at least he’s not completely lost to political correctness. After all, he is advocating an unhealthful candy-cane sugar rush. But give him some time. Next year, the tree will feature tofu canes. Two years from now, there will be no tree. Just tofu.
On a related note, I apologize for slower posting over the last couple weeks. The government-holiday season is always distracting.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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