Wednesday, November 09, 2005


The Sunday Times - Britain

The Sunday Times
November 06, 2005

Christmas lights fail to shine in equality zone
Dipesh Gadher
A COUNCIL is planning to scrap grants for festive lights because Christmas does not fit in with its “core values of equality and diversity”.
A report drawn up by the council in Suffolk concedes that the move could lead to officials being accused of “not supporting the spirit of Christmas”.
The move is the latest in a string of decisions by organisations to downplay the celebration of the birth of Christ — ostensibly to prevent offence being caused to non-Christian religions. Last week it emerged that Lambeth council in south London had insisted on renaming its Christmas lighting displays as “winter” or “celebrity” lights.
The latest is Conservative-controlled Waveney council in Lowestoft which provides grants totalling £10,000 for festive lights. Its report states that because Christmas focuses only on the Christian faith, continuing the funding would “not fit well with the council’s core values of equality and diversity”.
Officials are proposing to cut the lights grants to £5,000 next year and to stop them altogether by 2007. The report is due to go before councillors on Thursday.
“This is just another example of political correctness gone mad,” said Sue Allen, chairman of the local lights committee. “I was a bit surprised about the wording of the report. However, I can understand why the council is doing this and I believe there are more worthy causes in the district who deserve the money.
“It will just mean that we will have to work harder to raise funds for the Christmas lights in the future.”
Mark Bee, the council leader, yesterday insisted that the wording of the proposal had been drawn up by officials and said the change was being proposed solely on economic grounds.
“I consider the wording of the document unfortunate and I will be taking it up with the officer on Monday,” said Bee. “I do not see the reason for this as one of equality and diversity. It is one of economics.
“I am a practising Christian and attend church and feel that religion of all forms is something that should be embraced.
“We do not live in an area of great cultural diversity in this part of Suffolk, but if there were any communities that particularly came forward for funding we would deal with them in an equal way.”
Previous examples of Christmas being sidelined by officialdom include Birmingham council renaming the festival “Winterval” and job centres and Red Cross offices banning trees and decorations.

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