Roselle Park mayor: ‘We are lighting a Christmas tree’
Roselle Park Mayor Carl Hokanson issued another statement regarding the controversy generated over the borough's tree lighting ceremony by the rescinded resignation of councilwoman Charlene Storey.
"I am pleased this year to see all the enthusiasm over our 'Christmas Tree' celebration," Hokanson wrote in a statement released to TAP Into Roselle Park. He said the controversy is not a constitutional issue or a mixing of politics and religion and boiled the controversy down it its simplest form: "We are lighting a Christmas Tree."
Hokanson called the incident one in which Storey and other residents were able to use their first amendment rights and an opportunity to "enhance diversity." The mayor said that at the end of the ceremony all can leave as the "Roselle Park family."
Storey resigned last Friday after the Borough Council voted to add the work "Christmas" to the tree lighting ceremony, a decision she called exclusionary of non- Christians who live in Roselle Park. However, she took back her resignation after a meeting with Hokanson, who said he did not intend to insult anyone's religious beliefs. Storey will head up a newly formed committee on diversity in order to head of future disagreements.
Mayor Hokanson's full statement
I am pleased this year to see all the enthusiasm over our “Christmas Tree” celebration. At this point there are few points for the record.
1. Our ceremony on Friday at 6 p.m. will be referred to as the “Christmas Tree Lighting." This is not a constitutional issue or an attempt to mix religion with government. Rather this is a factual reference - we are lighting a Christmas Tree.
2. What we have experienced in the last week after the hubbub dies down was the fact that many of us were able to exercise our First Amendment Rights. Along with religious rights we also have free speech rights.
Moving forward, I sport all activities to enhance diversity. That’s another right we celebrate in this country. So, I invite all to our celebration on Friday night at 6 p.m. at Michael Mauri Park. At the end of the lighting celebration, we can leave together as the Roselle Park family - with something we all agree upon the need to work to improve the borough.