A senior living facility in Chehalis has become the topic of contention after online media sources wrote that the phrase “merry Christmas” and certain religious symbols had been banned by the building’s management.
Officials from Providence Home and Community Care, however, said such claims are “misinformed.”
“The claims are misinformed from a group that never reached out to us to verify what they were being told,” said Mary Beth Walker, MarComm Director for Providence Home and Community Care.
Walker relayed a statement to The Chronicle in lieu of an interview with information in direct contrast to a letter sent to Providence Place from the Alliance Defending Freedom.
In that letter, the Alliance, an organization that describes itself as one that “defends the rights of citizens to exercise their religious liberties,” cites an unnamed resident they say wrote the Alliance, informing them of a ban on religious references, symbolism and Christmas carols.
“A current resident at Providence Place in Chehalis Washington contacted Alliance Defending Freedom regarding her desire to say Merry Christmas, sing Christmas carols that includes the words Christ and Christmas, set up traditional Christmas decorations, hang Christmas cards with religious messages next to her secular cards on her apartment door, and to be able to replace her Mezuzah on her door frame,” kicks off a nearly three-page letter to Providence Place signed Blake Meadows, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
A current resident at Providence Place in Chehalis spoke with The Chronicle, and said similar sentiments that were contained in the letter, but asked to remain anonymous.
Walker, meanwhile, provided a statement in stark contrast to the contents of the letter, essentially saying all residents are free to express their religious beliefs with few caveats.
That statement, in its entirety, reads:
“Providence Place is a Catholic affordable housing ministry that is part of a faith-based organization and funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Our residents may express themselves freely, including by wishing others a merry Christmas and singing Christmas carols. We do not limit religious speech in any way.
“Each resident is welcome to decorate their housing unit as they choose, however, the exteriors of apartment doors are reserved by the facility’s landlord for their exclusive use. This rule is applied consistently, irrespective of a resident’s religious tradition.
“Providence Place welcomes feedback from our residents and we maintain a tenant-grievance process that would allow a resident to raise an issue of this sort. To date we have not been contacted by any resident in regard to these topics. The contents of the letter sent by the Alliance Defending Freedom are factually inaccurate and do not reflect the mission and values of Providence Place, which is a place of peace and healing for our community.”
Providence Place became the target of online heat after the letter, dated Dec. 17, was sent and online media outlets began publishing its contents. The letter also includes an allegation that the current property manager incorrectly cited the Fair Housing Act prohibited Christian references.