Australian Prime Minister calls for restoration of religious meaning of Christmas (December 20, 2005)

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Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has made an impassioned plea to restore the religious meaning of Christmas.

Mr Howard said he had "contempt" for arguments that the religious side of the Christmas season should be toned down by removing Christmas trees and symbols and nativity scenes. He said he had been saddened by the removal of Christmas trees and nativity scenes from public places.

The reason commonly given for the removal of traditional Christmas scenes is so that non-religious people and those of other faiths are not offended. Mr Howard said "You don't win tolerant brownie points by pretending to be something that you're not".

Backing Mr Howard, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby said "We are a Christian country. If minorities are to integrate, they need something to integrate into. I don't think there is any intolerance in saying, 'This is who we are'".

The president of the Islamic Council of Queensland, Abdul Jabal, said "We don't celebrate Christmas but we support others doing so. It's a time of peace and sharing".

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