A military diversity training officer instructed a group of U.S. soldiers at Camp Shelby, Miss., not to use the word "Christmas," Fox News columnist Todd Starnes reported Tuesday
Starnes says he was contacted by an unidentified soldier at the camp about an incident two weeks ago. The soldier said members of the 158th Infantry Brigade were holding a meeting to organize an annual Christmas football tournament when an official with the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute told them they were to use the term "holiday tournament" instead.
"Our equal-opportunity representative stopped the briefing and told us that we can't say Christmas," Starnes says the soldier told him.
"Almost the entire room blew up," the soldier said. "Everybody was frustrated. The equal-opportunity rep told our commander that not everyone celebrates Christmas and we couldn't say Christmas celebration. It had to be holiday celebration."
After a brief discussion, the soldier says, the equal-opportunity officer said she was affirming Army rules.
"She said an individual can say Christmas, but as an organization in the Army you can't say Christmas," the soldier said.
Starnes reports that Camp Shelby Public Affairs Chief Amanda Glenn said in reply, "There is no policy at the 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, or First Army that forbids using the word 'Christmas.'"
She did confirm that the discussion occurred and that "the equal-opportunity adviser simply stated that it would be more appropriate to call it a holiday football event."
Michael Berry, a lawyer with the Liberty Institute who is representing the unidentified soldier, asked, "Are they going to have the 'merry Christmas' police going around issuing citations to any soldier who slips and says the word?"
"They're treating Christmas like it's pornography. As a matter of fact, the Army actually treats pornography better than it does Christmas," Berry said.
This is the second time in recent months that Camp Shelby has drawn attention from Christians.
The secretary of the Army in October ordered military leaders to stop labeling Evangelical Christians as domestic hate groups in briefings on extremist organizations
after Starnes reported
a briefing at the camp included the American Family Association among such groups.
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