Seattle ‘equity’ manager gets ‘Ebenezer Award’ after banning Christmas/Hannukah displays in workers’ OWN homes

Gloria Ngezaho, the workforce equity manager for King County, which includes Seattle, was the dubious recipient of the annual Ebenezer Award for banning visible Christmas and Hannukah decorations in city workers’ homes during Zoom calls to avoid offending colleagues.

Ngezaho’s policy was first revealed in November by Seattle-based journalist Jason Rantz. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty called King County the most “outrageous offender” in 2022 because of its strict “Guidelines for Holiday Decorations.”

Religious items were prohibited in employees’ video backgrounds. The list included Nativity sets, the crucifix, the Star of David, and menorahs.

The policy contends that public displays of religious beliefs “may cause disruption to co-workers or members of the public that do not share that particular religion.”

“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,” the memo reportedly asserts.

The Becket Fund commented that the award to King County is akin to “delivering a lump of coal as an acknowledgment of scroogery on a grand scale.”

Previous recipients of the award include the American Humanist Association, which attempted to prevent schools from sending care packages to children in need; the Department of Veteran Affairs, which banned employees at its Salem, Virginia facility from saying “Merry Christmas” to veterans; and the University of Minnesota, which banned from campus holiday colors, Santas, bows, dreidels, and wrapped presents.

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

“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,” Alvarado further said in a statement. “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.”

Ngezaho is apparently a big proponent of Black Lives Matter, previously sending out a “personal, reflective piece” to King County employees called “Black Lives Matter. What’s next?” that followed the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.

“It was just a couple of weeks ago that I, alongside the world, witnessed the murder of George Floyd at the hands, or should I say knees, of a white police officer. I sat in silence, along with my family, angry and not knowing what to do,” he noted, according to the Daily Mail. “It wasn’t too long after that I decided to share my thoughts with my network. This was a space I needed in that moment, because my entire family was hurting, and I needed to let out the fire that was in me.”

“[…] Contrary to some rhetoric out there, the challenges we face are not between black skinned folks vs. white skinned folks. This is about everyone, at least everyone who does not associate with and subscribe to white supremacy, or racism,” Ngezaho claimed. “There are plenty of folks in my circles who have tried to reframe this fight against racism, and made it sound like it was a fight between black skinned folks and white skinned folks. I have continuously had to check and correct them, making it clear that we are fighting against a cancerous ideology – white supremacy – not people.”

He went on to admonish others to not get provoked by responses after the fact, stating that “it is much easier to make mistakes and make things worse in the heat of the moment because every response tends to be reactionary.”

“When I say I am not alone, I don’t mean to say there are other black skinned folks out there facing the same struggles and fighting alongside me,” he wrote two years ago. “I mean to say that there are many folks of all skin colors (asian, black, white, latinx, native, mixed…) who are with me, marching with me, thinking with me, fighting alongside me, often with their own lives on the line. This leads me back to the first point I made; this is not a black vs. white issue, but about everyone vs. racism.”

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