Sunday, September 23, 2007

Court Says Halloween Decorations Are Secular Symbols

Rivera-Alicea v. Gonzalez-Galoffin, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69905 (D PR, Sept. 20, 2007), involves claims by a secretary in Puerto Rico's Department of Justice that she was retaliated against for complaining that "pagan" office Halloween decorations offended her Pentecostal Christian religious beliefs. In rejecting plaintiff's Establishment Clause claim, the Puerto Rico federal district court held:
Halloween decorations, like valentines, Easter bunnies, and egg hunts are all secular displays and activities that neither convey religious messages nor constitute religious symbols. Halloween lost its religious and superstitious overtones long ago. It has become instead a commercial holiday enjoyed by communities in its many forms of entertainment.
The court also rejected plaintiff's Free Exercise claim and her claim under various provisions of Puerto Rican law. However the court permitted plaintiff to move ahead with her claim of retaliation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act based on her allegations that various actions were taken against her because she filed a complaint with the EEOC over the Halloween decorations.