“Merry Christmas!” - An EU Equality Commissioner Proposes Doing Away with It
In a broader attempt to make sure “everyone is valued and recognized in all our material regardless of their gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”, the European Commission was forced to retract its internal guidelines on how to use more gender-neutral, LGBTQ+ friendly language when they were accused of trying to “cancel Christmas”. “Long live the Europe of common sense”, a former European Parliament member reacted on Twitter.
In what was called an alarming attempt to “cancel Christmas”, an internal document created by the European Commission recently came to light, advising EU officials to use “inclusive” language when it came to gender, race, and in this case, religious holidays. The commissioner for equality, Helena Dalli, had created the internal guidelines in support of the much broader plan sanctioned by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to carry out what is being called their “Union of Equality” initiative.
In these guidelines, which were only circulated internally and never shared publicly, officials were advised to avoid assuming that everyone was Christian, white, and married and recommended they refer to “Christmas” as the “holiday season”.
The guidelines went on to say, “not everyone celebrates Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates”. Furthermore, it said, the concept of one’s “Christian name” should be abandoned, as it can imply "intolerance or judgment, fuel stereotypes or single out one religious group.", while it suggested using “Malika and Julio” instead of “Maria and John” to describe an “international couple”.
The reaction was swift: “Inclusion does not mean denying the Christian roots of [the EU]”, Antonio Tajani, former president of the EU parliament, tweeted. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, responded in an interview with the Vatican News, “of course, we know that Europe owes its existence and its identity to numerous contributions, but we certainly can’t forget that one of its main contributions, if not the main one, has been Christianity itself.”
After the negative reactions to the guidelines, Ms. Dalli was forced to withdraw them, stating “my initiative to draft guidelines as an internal document for communication by commission staff in their duties was intended to achieve an important aim: to illustrate the diversity of European culture and showcase the inclusive nature of the European commission towards all walks of life and beliefs of European citizens.
“However, the version of the guidelines published does not adequately serve this purpose. It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”
The European Commission and other EU institutions have been criticized for a long time for not having more diversity amongst their staff. As part of an update in the general language to be used by its members, with this move, the Commission was likely looking to appease its critics.
They forgot their own guidelines
The European Parliament and European Council both had similar recommendations to the Commission in their own guidelines issued in January of 2018, Inclusive Communication in the GSC, but did not go as far Ms. Dalli’s proposition.
In this case, they were done largely to promote “gender-neutral, and bias-free nouns that make no assumption about whether it is a man or woman who does a particular job or plays a particular role.” Pictures were meant to show more diversity in the work environment, and images should give consideration in reflecting the diversity of the European people.
What is perhaps most interesting is when you read through the Inclusive Communication in the GSC from 2018, you find another reference to EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion and belief, adopted in a meeting from June 2013. In the introduction, outlining their reason for the action at that time, one of their main points was that “all persons have the right to manifest their religion or belief either individually or in community with others and in public or private in worship, observance, practice and teaching, without fear of intimidation, discrimination, violence or attack.” When it comes to wishing “Merry Christmas”, it would appear they forgot about their own guidelines.
And once again, government officials are getting paid to worry about some of these things.
We will still wish you a Merry Christmas!
While we certainly support equality on many different levels, and absolutely respect different religions and their practices, the precedent that was trying to be set here feels dangerous. Since a Christian would never go into a Hindu temple in India wearing shoes out of respect for Hindu practices, similarly, in a Christian society, it should be okay to celebrate Christmas, an important Christian holiday.
With no disrespect to any other religions, all of us at BFI Capital Group are going to continue wishing you a Merry Christmas!