Seattle county prohibits employees from showing religious holiday imagery in virtual backgrounds, wins 'Ebenezer Award'

The Becket fund called King County "the most outrageous offender" this holiday season, comparing its actions to "a lump of coal [delivered] as an acknowledgment of scroogery on a grand scale."

The most populous county in Washington state has been awarded an "Ebenezer Award" from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty because of its strict "Guidelines for Holiday Decorations” which banned holiday decorations, even from online spaces.

"Before adding any decorations to your workspace (including your virtual workspace), consider the likely effect of such decorations on all of the employees in and outside your work group," reads the memo.

King County, which includes Seattle earned the award after a memo stipulated that county employees were not allowed to display religious items, including Nativity sets, menorahs, the Star of David, or the crucifix in their common work areas, even in their virtual workspaces at home.

Gloria Ngezaho, the Workforce Equity Manager for King County’s Department of Human Resources, wrote the memo which said that religious displays in common areas "may cause disruption to co-workers or members of the public that do not share that particular religion."

The memo added, "Some employees may not share your religion, practice any religion, or share your enthusiasm for holiday decorations. Displays of religious symbols may only be displayed in an employee’s personal workspace.”

A press release from the Becket fund called King County "the most outrageous offender" this holiday season, comparing its actions to "a lump of coal [delivered] as an acknowledgment of scroogery on a grand scale."

Montse Alvarado, COO and executive director of Becket, said in a statement, "Religious employees of King County will likely feel like the ransacked residents of Whoville this Christmas and Hanukkah season. The government has no right to rob its employees of holiday cheer by forcing them take down their nativity sets and menorahs, particularly in their own homes."

Alvarado added, "This is the time of year that Americans ought to come together in the spirit of Christmas to support one another and spread joy and hope. But as always, there are bureaucrats like those in King County that scrub religion out of the holiday season. Let’s hope their hearts grow a few sizes this Christmas."

According to Fox News, previous recipients of the Ebenezer Award included “the American Humanist Association, which attempted to prevent schools from providing assistance to disadvantaged children; the Department of Veteran Affairs, which prohibited staff at its Salem, Virginia facility from wishing veterans a "Merry Christmas"; and the University of Minnesota, which prohibited holiday-themed items such as Santas, bows, dreidels, wrapped presents, and even certain colors from being displayed on campus.”

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