Roselle Park council president quits over the word ‘Christmas’ in tree ceremony
A municipal council president resigned from her position after the Roselle Park Borough city council voted to include the word "Christmas" in the name of the town's tree lighting ceremony.
In a statement published on a local website, Roselle Park News, Charlene Komar Storey called the vote "a resolution that cuts non-Christians out of the loop on a public event" and a violation of the oath members took to uphold the U.S Constitution "which forbid government to get involved in religion."
After Thursday’s 4-2 Council vote, Storey announced her intention to quit effective Jan. 7, according to an NJ Advance Media report.
In her statement, she wrote that her decision was not a matter of political correctness but rather “a fundamental issue of freedom of religion – one of the basic freedoms that tens of thousands of Americans, including my uncle, died to defend over the years." Quoting U.S Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor, Storey noted that endorsing a religion "sends a message to non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.”
Responding to Storey’s resignation, Roselle Park Mayor Carl Hokanson told the local online news site, TAPinto Roselle Park, “I am deeply sorry for the council president's decision to resign, and I did not intend to insult or question anyone's religious beliefs with the name change for our annual event.”
According to Storey’s statement, 33.8 percent of Roselle Park's population do not identify with one particular religion. "Changing the name – and I emphasize “changing” – clearly disrespects them all and hijacks the tree lighting for one religion," she wrote.
According to the NJ Advance Media report, fourth-ward Councilman M. Gino Elmarassy also voted against the name change, but Story’s statement notes that the remaining four council members 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’.”
On her Facebook page, Storey posted a picture of an undecorated pine tree with a large devil head on top with the caption, "sorry I'm out of it now I'm a little hungover today after partying a little too hard at our Christmas, errr, uhm, I mean holiday party last nite."