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official says "humbug" to politically correct greetings
posted by the asbury park press on 12/7/05
by bill bowman
staff writer

middletown - the head of the township's library board of trustees defended a holiday card the group is sending to township residents, disputing a township committee member's claim that it did not mention christmas.

randall gabrielan said tuesday that the card, titled "season's readings," included christmas greetings in a variety of languages, although the sentiment was not expressed in english.

he said he has heard of no other complaints about the card and added that the library intends to continue sending them out.

but township committeeman gerard p. scharfenberger said the card illustrates a larger problem, an assault on religion in general and christmas in particular.

"this is outrageous," scharfenberger said.  "it's insulting and it's dangerous to let this kind of thing go on."

the cards were purchased from the chicago-based american library association, where they are available to association members for $17.10 for a pack of 25, according to the association's web site.

the cards have a red background with "seasons readings" printed in large white block letters.  also on the card, printed in white, are a number of christmas greetings in different languages - including chinese, french, spanish and german - and a greeting for kwanzaa and hanukkah.

at monday's township committee meeting, scharfenberger blasted the omission of "merry christmas" in english.

he said when he saw that, "i hit the ceiling."

scharfenberger lamented a "really nefarious effort by a small, well-funded group to purge religion from the public agenda.  nazi germany, russia, that's how they started."

he also objected to the advertising of the township's recent christmas tree lighting as a "holiday tree" event.

"i'm not quite sure what a holiday tree is," he said.  "that tree . . . is a christmas tree."

"it's part of an exercise to 'genericize' - that's my word - christmas," he said.

gabrielan said that while he and scharfenberger agree on many things, the card issue is not one of them.

"i certainly don't think the card is in any way neutral," he said.  "indeed, it's rather inclusive with christmas mentioned in many languages.  is it my favorite card in the world?  no.  do i think it violates the christmas spirit?  absolutely not."

"i am strongly in favor of keeping 'christmas' in christmas and have committed myself personally," he said.  "i agree with committeeman scharfenberger's feelings on that subject.  i just don't feel that the card is any violation of it."

noting that the card came from a national organization, gabrielan said it's being used by libraries across the country.

"i wouldn't have written it in exactly the same way," he said.  "i noticed the absence of christmas in english, but seeing it was expressed in so many other languages, i thought, no big deal or no deal at all."

lara clark, a spokeswoman for the library association, said she was not aware of any complaints about the card.

"we do offer a lot of multilingual products," she said.

what do you think?  e-mail bbowman@app.com by friday morning [9 dec. 2005].

bill bowman:  (732) 643-4212 or bbowman@app.com

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