University of Maine officials held a press conference today in response to a controversy over campus Christmas decorations. They called the whole thing a misunderstanding and expressed a welcoming attitude for all cultures and their holiday symbols.

Originally, a story caught fire on social media about an email that was circulated to some U-Maine staff banning certain Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, wreaths, Santas, Menorahs, and candy canes. This morning, U-Maine officials stated that it was sent from a supervisor to a group of employees and did not reflect school policy.

This afternoon, officials held a press conference to further explain the college's policies on holiday decorations. We were unable to attend, but asked U-Maine spokesperson Dan Demeritt to send us a statement. He very graciously agreed and sent us the following statement from President Susan Hunter and Vice President and Dean of Students, Robert Dana.

"Dear UMaine Community:

 Yesterday, a very sudden misunderstanding erupted concerning the university's position on the display of religious and holiday-related symbols in UMaine's dining facilities.

We want to be absolutely clear that at the University of Maine, we welcome every faith tradition, and we welcome displays of those faith traditions. The university is a place where, indeed, there is a great deal of diversity and that's what we want — and expect. It is a place for all to be heard, welcomed and respected, and a place for dialogue.

There is no question that we stand for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and therefore all faith traditions are welcome here. We welcome displays of religious symbols in public spaces and residence hall rooms. We don't advocate one religion over another; we stand for the expression of all religions.

Understandably, issues of freedom of speech and freedom of religion are often interpreted differently by different people. To be clear, the university's official position on this matter is that we encourage and support the display of religious and holiday-related symbols in our public spaces and residence hall rooms. We stand together as a community, and we cherish our highly prized freedoms of open and active dialogue, and unimpeded expression of ideas."

Part of the controversy centered around Christmas trees that were removed from the Memorial union around the same time news broke of the email-in-question. Demeritt told us the trees were part of a charitable drive put on by the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity for Crossroads Ministries. The trees were taken down, as scheduled, as part of the charity event and not in response to any policy decision.

We want to thank Dan Demeritt for his cooperation and prompt response to our request for information.

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