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NJ Councilwoman Rescinds Resignation Over 'Christmas' Tree Lighting Ceremony

ROSELLE PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A New Jersey city council member has rescinded her resignation after she said she was stepping down following a city council decision to add the word "Christmas'' to the name of its tree-lighting ceremony.

Earlier this week, the Roselle Park City Council voted 4 to 2 to change the name of their "Tree Lighting Ceremony" to "Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony."

Councilwoman Charlene Storey, a Democrat, left the meeting and later sent in a letter of resignation, WCBS 880's Stephanie Colombini reported.

Storey, who was raised Catholic but describes herself as a non-believer, said she made the decision because she did not want to be a part of a city council that excluded other religions.

"I cannot in good conscience continue to be part of a council that is exclusionary or to work with a mayor who is such,'' Storey said in her resignation letter.

She also sited the separation of church and state plus an increasingly diverse community.

"It's been the holiday tree for 20 years," she told CBS2's Brian Conybeare. "I think that if you are using municipal funds, you have to be careful to be representing as large a part of the population as possible."

But on Saturday, Storey rescinded her resignation and agreed to chair a new diversity committee, Conybeare reported.

"We'll get different backgrounds from different people, different ethnic groups to sit down and come to us with questions, problems, answers, solutions," said Roselle Park Mayor Carl Hokanson.

Hokanson praised Storey for her work on the council. He said everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but also noted that each town can use whatever title it wants to use for the ceremony.

"People are offended because we use the word 'Christmas,'" he said. "Well I feel offended when you tell me 'holiday.'"

"I disagree strongly," Storey said. "I don't think I've ever seen anybody say, 'You can't say merry Christmas.'"

Some residents, though, say it's all a little crazy.

"It looks exactly like a Christmas tree, but you can call it whatever you want," said resident Hailey Ortis. "Yeah, it's completely silly."

There are already lights on the tree in Michael Mauri park, but when they're lit on Dec. 11, Storey said she won't be there. She will however chair that diversity committee to try an determine exactly what the ceremony will be called next year.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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