Councilwoman Resigns because of Christmas Tree

As far as I can tell, Charlene Storey had no objection to the ceremonial lighting of a large evergreen tree that was decorated with many ornaments. But when the city council called it a Christmas Tree, she flipped out. reports, “Roselle Park councilwoman quits over ‘Christmas’ tree lighting.”

Minutes after the council voted 4-2 Thursday night to change the name of the ceremony from A Tree Lighting to A Christmas Tree Lighting, the councilwoman-at-large, left the meeting. She later submitted her letter of resignation with the municipal clerk’s office.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to be part of a council that is exclusionary or to work with a Mayor who is such,” Storey said in her letter.

When reached today, Storey said she regretted having to resign, but said the change “cuts non-Christians out of the loop and favors one religion.”

Storey, who was raised Catholic but is now a “non-believer” and has never hidden that fact, said the issue is a matter of principle.

Changing the ceremony, she said, “turned it from a non-religious event to a religious one.”

Christmas trees aren’t in the Bible. Is the Easter Bunny a sectarian figure and an Easter Egg hunt a Christian ceremony that excludes non-believers?

The mayor made the same point as reported in a follow-up story:

[Mayor Carl] Hokansan said he had no intentions of being exclusionary, but that “a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree.”

“Just like the Easter Bunny is the Easter Bunny and not the Holiday Bunny,” he said. “It was never my intent to insult anyone’s beliefs or religion.”

The fact is that Christmas trees are open to the secular just like Thanksgiving. The mayor wasn’t pushing religion to call it a Christmas Tree. Storey was aggressively moving against a religious faith by treating it as unmentionable in public.

She also included a heaping dose of sexism and racism.

The Roselle Park News published her explanation in which she said,

All four members of the Council who voted for this are male, white, Catholic and members of the Knights of Columbus, a religious organization that every year posts a large sign urging, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” So I find it hard to accept that to them, a “Christmas” tree is a secular tree.

Her main argument is flawed. Wanting to be honest and call a Christmas tree what it is simply shows they aren’t willing to be bullied into denying history. But that doesn’t mean that the tree is sectarian. Everyone is invited to participate. It is just like a community Easter egg hunt.

But why does the race and sex of the city council members matter? She treats their decision as if it can be discounted on that basis. Does Storey think there are not female Christians who voted for these men and agree with them. Does she imagine that Christianity is exclusive to whites? That is what racists believe.

Sadly, Storey “rescinded” her resignation.

She said she hopes that as part of the new committee she can set up an application process so religious and non-religious groups can submit proposals for additions to the event and display.

“I think next year will be much more inclusive,” she said. “The new committee will help the borough identify and better deal with diversity and all of its issues, and hopefully head off such disagreements.”


(Hat tip: