New Jersey Councilwoman Quits Job After Lawmakers Call Annual Tree Lighting A ‘Christmas Tree Lighting’

A New Jersey councilwoman quit her job this week after her fellow city workers voted to incorporate the word “Christmas” into Roselle Park’s annual tree lighting event.

New York Daily News reports that Charlene Storey, of Roselle Park, wrote a letter of resignation after the body voted 4-2 to change the name of the yearly tree lighting to the “Annual Christmas Tree Lighting.” In previous years, the celebration was known as the “Annual Holiday Tree Lighting.”

According to Storey’s letter, the former councilwoman wrote that she decided to resign from her position because,

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

The vote brings back the original name of the tree lighting ceremony, which was removed during the 1990s after a vote to change the name to “Annual Holiday Tree Lighting” won out. Changing the name back to include “Christmas,” at least according to Storey, removes non-Christians from the celebration. Storey, who grew up Catholic but now refers to herself as a non-believer, thinks that placing religion on the tree-lighting ceremony is not in the best interest of the city.

“There are also many other philosophies and religions outside of Christianity. Changing the name … clearly disrespects them all and hijacks the tree lighting for one religion.”

Roselle Park News reports that Storey is receiving backlash for her views, but the former councilwoman explained that it has nothing to do with being politically correct, but more so to do with the city excluding others.

“If the town wanted to display different religious symbols in Michael Mauri Park that would be nice. It would be inclusive.”

Storey also indicated that she was completely caught off-guard about Thursday’s vote, and that the decision seemingly came out of nowhere.

“I felt sandbagged. It was not on the agenda and when the mayor and I spoke about it a couple of days before, it was mentioned in passing, among other matters, and the impression was that this was going to be done next year. There were bigger things to be worrying about right now and this was something that could wait.”

In addition to seeing a more diverse holiday setting in the city, Storey also wants a more diverse council. She stated that had there been a more distinct set of council members, the decision to include “Christmas” in the name of the annual tree lighting event would have never been brought up in the first place.

This isn’t the first this year that people have disagreed about how the holidays should be represented. Last month, Starbucks put out a plain, red cup for the holiday season, and discontinued the usual seasonal artwork on its cups, which in previous years included a reindeer and tree ornaments.

Although the new coffee cup design was meant to keep the holiday season pure and simple, former pastor Joshua Feuerstein took offense to the plain cups and accused Starbucks of removing “Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus.”

Feuerstein’s comment created a frenzy among numerous people who stood behind his beliefs, and many began publicly bashing the coffee company. Yet, Starbucks released its own statement, indicating that the company wanted to make everyone feel welcome and “to create a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity.”

Charlene Storey plans to keep active in the community despite resigning from her position.

“You can represent people in different ways and, in some ways, you are free to speak more openly as a resident than you are as an elected official.”

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