Last Tuesday I proposed a motion in the Monash Council chamber to change the words "Seasons Greetings" to "Merry Christmas" on all council signage and decorations in Activity Centres in the City of Monash. To my surprise and astonishment, six of my colleagues decided to vote against the motion.
What was even more perplexing was the reasons given. The chamber was told that the words "Merry Christmas" were divisive. We were also told that many people in the community would be deeply offended by these words. One councillor said that he supported the previous council's position to use "Seasons Greetings" because it prided Monash's reputation as a multicultural city.
I was called many things in private which I will choose not to repeat. However, I was also ridiculed in public by some of my colleagues that the proposal lacked substance and was not shared by anyone else in society other than myself. My belief is that these councillors were trying to find any excuse to vote against this motion and uphold their misguided philosophy that political correctness is the duty of all elected officials and anyone who dares questions it is somehow an enemy of common decency. My argument is the exact opposite.
As I said when speaking in support of my motion, my argument consists of five key points:
Christmas represents the birth of Christ, first and foremost
However, Christmas is also a time of hope, peace, thanksgiving and reflection
Christmas is also an acknowledged secular and non-religious event, and is clearly defined as a public holiday by the State Government gazetted as "Christmas Day"
Christmas is also a long standing social event, celebrated by many people of faith and of non-faith, from many cultures and from and by many other countries.
Finally, I believe this motion represents a common sense attitude to this issue and does represent good governance and is good policy
I expected my motion to pass although I was not expecting unanimous approval. I knew that there would be some dissent and disagreement. What followed though was something different all together. An example was used that a large Christian church in the US uses Happy Holidays in their decorations and so I was wrong to propose Merry Christmas on council decorations which should be independent from any religious agenda. After minimal debate, a motion was moved to end further debate. Not only was the motion voted down, but debate was not allowed to continue because to do so would be divisive.
The motion was then defeated 6-4.
Of course, this isn't the most important issue facing the world at the moment. However I do believe that there is something wrong with society when elected councillors can be so out of touch with the community. Certainly, something has to change if we are going to be truly inclusive. In my view, to be really inclusive, we need to celebrate all festivities, including Christmas.