An atheist councilwoman in a town amid New Jersey’s suburban sprawl stormed out of a council meeting on Thursday and quit her job after the council decided to name the town’s Christmas tree-lighting event a “Christmas Tree Lighting.” Then, on Saturday, she rescinded her resignation.
The Democrat, Charlene Storey, left Thursday’s Roselle Park council meeting in a huff after town legislators voted 4-2 to rechristen the local “Tree Lighting” ceremony as the “Christmas Tree Lighting” ceremony, reports NJ Advance Media.
Storey then immediately tendered a resignation letter to the local 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 sternly wrote in her resignation letter. She also charged that calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree “cuts non-Christians out of the loop and favors one religion.”
The tree being lit at Roselle Park’s Christmas Tree Lighting — on Dec. 11 — appears to be a green, non-deciduous tree with red balls on its branches and white lights strung around it.
The mayor of Roselle Park, Carl Hokanson, originally suggested labeling the town Christmas tree as a Christmas tree.
“I can’t believe that people are going this crazy over this,” Hokanson told NJ Advance Media on Saturday. “There are more important things going on in this world.”
“A Christmas tree is a Christmas tree,” the mayor added. “The Easter Bunny is the Easter Bunny and not the Holiday Bunny.”
The mayor said he has received many supportive calls and emails.
Hokanson also said Storey was able to calm down once the two elected local politicians met privately. It was after the meeting that Storey announced she didn’t want to quit her council position over the phrase “Christmas tree” after all.
Storey said she went ballistic over the word “Christmas” because, a long time ago, Roselle Park officials changed the ceremony name in response to a lawsuit concerning a Christmastime display in nearby Jersey City.
“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 told NJ Advance Media this weekend.
“If the town wanted to display different religious symbols in Michael Mauri Park that would be nice,” Storey also told the Roselle Park News. “It would be inclusive.”
Hokanson, like Storey, is a Democrat. Photos show them campaigning together during happier times.
Storey, who grew up Catholic but later discarded Christianity for atheism, is a proud Democrat.
“A strong, life-long Democrat, I’m proud of my party affiliation,” Storey writes on a website she owns dedicated to herself.
City officials announced this weekend that Roselle Park will create a new committee on diversity. Storey will chair it, according to TAP into Roselle.