Since none of this has gone on before, it is likely the newest non-Christian arrivals to Australia that they are attempting to placate. From CNSNews.com, with thanks to all those who sent this in:
Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) – The lord mayor of Australia’s largest city was under fire Friday over a decision to limit spending on Christmas celebrations, a move some critics see as an attempt to avoid offending non-Christian immigrant communities.
Christians have decried the trend to play down the importance of the season as anything other than a time of consumerism and overindulgence, with all references to the Christian message removed.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s decision to restrict city council spending to about $465,000 means the city hall has been decorated with a single illuminated tree, which is perched on a balcony over the building’s entrance.
Other low-key decorations have been put up elsewhere in the city, as have banners with the words “Season’s Greetings” in English and eight other languages, but no specific reference to Christmas.
Under a headline “Where’s our Christmas?” the Daily Telegraph, a Sydney tabloid, published front-page pictures Friday contrasting Sydney’s lone tree with the lit-up streets of New York, London and Paris.
A public row deepened after the paper erroneously quoted Moore as saying the council was “just trying to keep a generic approach without trying to push one religious belief.”
The quote actually came from an unrelated news story, but an editing error mistakenly attributed it to Moore.
The mayor’s office sent out a statement calling the quote a fabrication, but the damage had already been done as the quote had been reproduced in stories circulated by wire agencies.
Prime Minister John Howard, a resident of the city of almost four million people, entered the debate in a radio interview Friday, saying that Moore’s plans were “silly” and should be reconsidered.
“I have never met a Jewish person or a Muslim Australian who wants us to stop celebrating Christmas,” Howard said. “You can’t have a generic approach to Christmas — it celebrates an historic event, it celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and it has become a focal point around the world for families to get together, to celebrate. You can’t replace that.”…
Last year, a fundamentalist Wahabi group said Australian Muslims should shun everything to do with the holiday and not even wish their non-Muslim neighbors “Merry Christmas.” The call was repudiated by a senior Islamic leader.
Earlier this week, a fast-food chain came in for criticism after head office management ordered the franchise owner of a Sydney store to remove from his counter a nativity scene including a model of baby Jesus, Mary and the Magi.
Jeff Fisher, chief executive of the Oporto chain, was quoted as saying company policy was supportive of “generic” decorations such as trees or tinsel.
“Oporto respects the multicultural nature of Australian society and therefore does not promote one religious expression over another,” the company said in a statement.
After a public fuss, however, the company backed down and agreed that the franchise owner — a Roman Catholic originally from Malta — could restore the display.