AFP fact check: Biden did not ban Easter symbolism from the White House

The campaign team and supporters of former US President Donald Trump accused the White House over the Easter weekend of banning symbols of the Christian holiday from government headquarters and turning Easter into a transgender day. However, these accusations are based on false claims, an AFP fact check has revealed.

“It is shocking and insulting that (President) Joe Biden's White House has banned children from submitting religious egg designs for its Easter art event and has formally designated Easter Sunday as 'Trans Day of Visibility,'” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt. She demanded that the White House and Biden's campaign team apologize.

Leavitt accused Biden of “waging an attack on the Christian faith” for years. The chairman of the US House of Representatives, Republican Mike Johnson, called it “outrageous and despicable” on the online service X that Biden had declared Easter Sunday to be Transgender Day.

The White House reacted angrily to the allegations. “As a Christian who celebrates Easter with family, President Biden is committed to bringing people together and upholding the dignity and freedoms of every American,” said government headquarters deputy spokesman Andrew Bates in a statement sent to the AFP news agency.

The fact is that Biden officially proclaimed March 31, 2024 – Easter Sunday – as “Transgender Day of Visibility” in a statement on Saturday. However, Transgender Day has been celebrated on March 31 every year since 2009, and Biden had published similar statements on this day in previous years.

So while Transgender Day always falls on March 31st, Easter has a different date every year. Easter Sunday is always the first Sunday after the full moon, which follows the spring equinox. Last year this was April 9th. The previous time Easter Sunday was on March 31st was in 2013. The next time will be in 2086.

The director of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for the rights of sexual minorities, Kelley Robinson, called it “disgusting that people are suggesting that Easter is being hijacked.”

The Trump camp's accusations about the egg competition are also not true. In fact, “religious symbols” are prohibited on the eggs, as the right-wing television station Fox News reported, citing a leaflet and an application form from the US Department of Defense. But these rules are by no means new. They were not just introduced under Biden, but have been in effect for decades.

Children from families of National Guard members take part in the competition. The winning egg is then presented to the First Lady. Contest rules are set by the American Egg Board, an event partner created by the U.S. Congress in 1976.

The President of the Egg Council, Emily Metz, points out that the committee's competition rules are bound to the requirements that apply to all federal authorities. Accordingly, the Egg Council is prohibited from “discriminating on the basis of religion, political beliefs and other established categories in all of its programs and activities.”

Metz also points out that the rules of the White House Egg Contest have been consistent since the council's inception, “across all administrations.” The ban on religious symbolism therefore also applied under Trump's presidency between 2017 and 2021.