Bathersby support for principal who spruiked Christmas

Brisbane's Archbishop John Bathersby has defended a government school principal who felt the need to apologise for "overusing" the word "Christmas" after complaints from parents.

CLICK HEREThe Courier-Mail reports that Yeppoon State School head Laurelle Allen wrote the apology after a family claimed she had discriminated against them by using "Christmas" too many times in school newsletters.

Paul and Melanie Jowsey, whose children Charles, 10, and Harrison, 8, attend the central Queensland school, do not celebrate Christmas and oppose the "historical dominance of Christianity" in Australia.

Archbishop Bathersby agreed with other critics, who said it was a case of political correctness gone mad and there was no need for the principal to apologise.

"Christmas is part of our tradition and the whole country accepts the fact that we have the Christmas season," he said. "It should not offend anyone if we call it that and I can't understand why a person would be offended."

The Jowseys complained that Ms Allen used "Christmas" at least 10 times in three newsletters over a week and had subjected them to "direct and indirect discrimination" by treating those who embrace Christianity more favourably.

But stunned community and church leaders, teachers, parents and family groups insisted that Ms Allen need not have apologised.

Premier Peter Beattie said school principals should be free to discuss Christmas at will.

"Christmas is important as a celebration and Christians should be able to celebrate the festivities as Christmas," he said.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Steve Ryan also backed Ms Allen, saying the Jowsey family had not been discriminated against.

The school's Parents and Citizens Association chairman Yme Dwarshuis said the principal's Christmas comments were made "in good faith" and she need not have apologised.

The controversy erupted on 30 November, when the Jowseys sent a letter to Ms Allen complaining about her use of the word "Christmas" in several newsletters sent to parents.

The family took offence at phrases such as "Christmas concert" and "Christmas disco", and the principal's greeting: "I would like to take this opportunity to wish all families a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe Christmas holiday period."

The Jowseys demanded Ms Allen respond to their complaint within 14 days.

In a letter to Mr Jowsey, Ms Allen replied: "I firstly must apologise for offending you and your family. You are right in that there are many references to Christmas and the Christmas season in the recent newsletters.

Principal apologises for saying 'Christmas' (The Courier Mail 11/12/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Yeppoon State School
Archdiocese of Brisbane

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12 Dec 2005