Saturday, December 5, 2015
This is what the war on Christians looks like. Pagans claim the high ground of inclusion by excluding all but themselves.
ROSELLE PARK — It came down to the addition of a single word for the a tree lighting ceremony, but that word carried enough significance for borough Councilwoman Charlene Storey to resign.
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."
Storey said Mayor Carl Hokanson had briefly mentioned the idea of making the change several days ago. However, Storey said the resolution for the change was not listed on the agenda and she was surprised when it was brought up at the meeting.
She said she had checked other municipalities and only found events, tree lightings or holiday tree lightings, and none that included the word Christmas.
Hokanson said each municipality can use what title it wants to use. New York, he said, calls it a Christmas Tree lighting and another city may not.
"It's not a street, it's not a building, it's a Christmas tree," he said.
"Everybody's entitled to his beliefs," said Hokanson, who praised Storey for her work on the council. The mayor said fourth-ward Councilman M. Gino Elmarassy also voted against the name change. A call to Elmarassy was not immediately returned.
Storey's resignation from the six-member council is effective Jan. 7, when the government re-organizes.
Storey took office in January 2013 and her ran until December 2017.
Tom Haydon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_HaydonSL. Find NJ.com on Facebook.