New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey and Mayor Carl Hokanson of Roselle Park don't see eye-to-eye about the city's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Interestingly, both of them are Democrats. But Storey sees the name of the ceremony as being "exclusionary of non-Christians", and with its current name, an incorrect use of taxpayer money.
The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony started out with that name many years ago. Then as the result of a lawsuit, the name got changed to "Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony." The Mayor of Roselle Park, New Jersey, Carl Hokanson, decided that the name "Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony" needed to be restored to the city's holiday tradition. He put the vote before the city council, who voted 4-2 to change it back to "Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony." This is his first year as the city mayor.
Storey found the change to be upsetting, especially since she is an ex-catholic who presently considers herself to be a non-believer. Storey wrote a letter of resignation and handed it in after the council's Thursday vote.
Hokanson feels that she is a valuable councilwoman who is very good at what she does, and so he reached out to her to persuade her to stay. The agreement that the two of them reached was that Storey will start and lead a diversity committee to address such issues in the future. However, the name "Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony" still stands at this time. Stoney will not be participating in the December 11 event.
Hokanson has received a multitude of calls and e-mails over the controversy. He said, "I can't believe that people are going this crazy over this.There are more important things going on in this world."
Hokanson added that, "A Christmas tree is a Christmas tree. Just like the Easter Bunny is the Easter Bunny and not the Holiday Bunny. It was never my intent to insult anyone's beliefs or religion."
Storey's take on the issue is that, "If it had always been called a 'Christmas' tree lighting, I probably would never have said anything, but the adding it back bothered me."
Storey feels that the name change "turned it from a non-religious event to a religious one."
Her hope and plan for the Diversity Committee that she will head up is for the group to create a process that will blend religious and non-religious ideas for the future of the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Storey wants to facilitate the creation of a display that's more inclusive for all people groups who want to contribute and participate.
Storey said that she believes that, "The new committee will help the borough identify and better deal with diversity and all of its issues, and hopefully head off such disagreements."