Two tales of Christmas shenanigans from our friends down under:

First, The Age reports that more and more companies are avoiding Christmas, even "holiday" parties, and are instead having "functions" so as not to offend non-believers or people of different faith.

A partner at one law firm said non-Christian employees there lodged an internal complaint after carols were sung at the Christmas party last year. They said the carols were too "in-your-face," so the company said no carols this year.

Stuart Kollmorgen says it's not discriminatory to hold a Christmas party, but nor it is a good idea. He says people should get used to saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

"A more accepting and inclusive society will result," he said. "Companies don't want to upset their best employees."

And, in Melbourne, more than a dozen day-care centers said they would have to take a pass on having Santa visit the kiddies because they didn't want to offend any minority groups, reports the Sunday Mail.

One childcare center run by the Swinburne University of Technology will substitute a clown for Saint Nick. Swinburne spokeswoman Jenni Austin said Santa was not appropriate. "As a university, we have to be sensitive to the views of minority groups," she said.

But even the head of the Australian Arabic Council, Roland Jabbour, said the no-Santa ruling was going too far. "Santa's part of the Australian way of life. We don't know how such a thing could be offensive."

Pagan Problems

An Alabama man is suing the city of Birmingham, claiming that spending city money to restore a statue of Vulcan is an illegal endorsement of religion, reports The Birmingham News.

Carl Dykes is seeking to prevent the placement of Vulcan's likeness on public land. Vulcan is the Roman god of smiths and metalworkers.

Dykes says he is a Christian who believes there is only the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible and is offended by the placement of the deity in a public park. He is seeking $1 each in punitive damages from the city of Birmingham, Jefferson County, the state of Alabama and the U.S. Department of Interior's National Park Service

The statue, one of the world's largest iron figures, was created for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis and was cast as a tribute to Birmingham's iron industry.

Holiday Tree

Even non-Christians in Canada are saying that the lengths people will go to avoid mentioning the word Christmas or anything that smacks of Christianity this time of year is getting a little out of hand, reports Reuters.

Toronto city officials started it when they called the 50-foot tree set up outside City Hall a "holiday tree." Mayor Mel Lastman quickly reversed the decision. "They were trying to be inclusive and their hearts were in the right place, but you can't be politically correct all the time," he said.

Toronto is apparently not alone in its efforts to appease. The Royal Canadian Mint has a commercial in which it changes the old holiday standard "Twelve Days of Christmas" to "Twelve Days of Giving."

But Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress calls it all over-the-top.

"There seems to be a fear within certain circles in Canada that people are going to react to Christmas in a negative way. But it's not the case," he said. "It's time to sort of get on with life, accept everybody for who they are and revel in their holidays as opposed to look for ways to deny people's holidays. It's just plain silly."

Tormented Tots

Education Department officials in England are attempting to distance themselves from a booklet they launched that tells nursery schools not to play musical chairs because the game is too violent and competitive, reports the BBC.

Towards a Non-Violent Society, a pamphlet produced by the Forum on Children and Violence, argues that musical chairs only rewards the "strongest and fastest."

The office of an embarrassed Education Minister Margaret Hodge insisted that there is no ban on the game, only that the booklet "advises that teachers might think of less confrontational alternatives."

Fishy Business

Since federal officials have officially changed the name of the jewfish to "Goliath grouper" after complaints that the old name might be offensive, one man is on a crusade to change the name of Jewfish Creek in Key Largo, Fla., reports The Miami Herald.

One Arnold G. Konheim of Washington, D.C., has petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change the creek's name. In his application, Konheim argues that "the word Jew in any form other than a noun is derogatory."

Two years ago, the jewfish was officially rechristened the Goliath grouper after a fish ecologist at the University of Georgia lobbied the Committee on Names of Fishes with the American Fisheries Society. He said jewfish was anti-Semitic.

Meaty Debate

Vegetarians in Tennessee claim the governor's refusal to proclaim a "Vegetarian Month" and pass a resolution against meat, poultry and other yummy stuff smacks of discrimination, reports the Nashville Tennessean.

Gov. Don Sundquist refused to sign the proclamation, which says in part: "Our food supply should be safe and wholesome, rather than laced with pathogens, fat, cholesterol, hormones and carcinogens leading to heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic afflictions that each year cripple and kill millions."

The proclamation also says meat farms destroy public lands and waterways, deplete water, soil and energy resources, and that animals raised for food are often mishandled and mistreated.

"He is discriminating against vegetarians," said Lige Weill, president of the Knoxville-based Tennessee Vegetarian Society. "They sign proclamations for everything: baton twirling, anything."

Finally! The daily edition of Tongue Tied is here. For those who can’t wait until the end of the week for a dose of the deluded PC-niks latest antics, head over to the Tongue Tied Web site.

Mailbag:

Jonathan O. writes:

Regarding your blurb on the fraternity members who dressed as the Williams sisters: you failed to mention in your write up that the students wore black face. PC or no PC, that's just blatantly ignorant and offensive. I don't mind reporting on PC-ness gone mad, just remember to report all the facts.

David W. in Minneapolis, Min.. writes:

I am sure I am not the only one that is perplexed that Mark Lowry from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is shocked that a Christmas themed show has Christmas themes in it. Would Mr. Lowry be shocked if he attended a Hanukkah program and the origins of the holiday and the reasons for lighting the Menorah were explained? Come on.

Tom B. in Scottsdale, Ariz. writes:

I love the story about Memphis "needing to change the names of its Confederate parks". What a riot!!! On one of my trips over the past few years to the United Kingdom I read about a mayor of French town who insisted that the British need to change the "offensive" names in the center of London, especially where international (read that as French nationals) visitors alight from their overseas journeys. The offensive names? Waterloo Station and Trafalgar Square.

Maribeth L. in Fort Wayne, Ind. writes:

It's OK to celebrate and discuss Ramadan, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa in our schools and on stage, but our psyches will be forever damaged if we or our children hear or see anything Christian. Once again, Mark Lowry of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the South Orange, N.J. middle school prove that diversity and tolerance are a one way street.

Jim M. in Lynchburg, Va. writes:

You should note that since the election it is very PC to be mean spirited,bigoted and full of hate as all ultra conservatives are. Give yourself a paragraph in your next article.

Thom M. in Marriottsville, Md. writes:

I hate to appear either insensitive or ignorant, but I'm having serious difficulty understanding the "outrage" generaed by the two frat members coming to a halloween party dressed as the Williams sisters. Is it now a hate crime to darken one's skin to imitate a "person of color"? I guess in the future it will be insulting to the Irish for anyone wishing to pose as the Incredible Hulk to tinge their skin green as part of the costume. I only wish I had the time to spend on such important issues as those investigating this obviously monumental act of racial terpitude.

V Kaldenbach writes:

Are you suggesting that it is OK to mock Germans in the manner alleged by the English at the Motorola facility? This hardly bears mentioning in a column that is typically reserved to draw attention to the absurd. This is not such a case. If the allegations are true, these slurs, etc. are truly offensive and warrant investigation and punitive action.

 

All material copyright 2002 by Scott Norvell. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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