Sorry for saying merry Christmas

A YEPPOON school principal has apologised after a family claimed she had discriminated against them by over-using the word Christmas in school newsletters. But the family's complaint has been condemned by politicians, union and church leaders, who have supported the newsletters of Yeppoon State School and its head, Laurelle Allen. Paul and Melanie Jowsey, who do not celebrate Christmas and oppose what they call the "historical dominance of Christianity'' in Australia, wrote a letter of complaint to Ms Allen on November 30.

The couple ? whose children, Charles, 10, and Harrison, eight, attend the school ? said Ms Allen had used the word Christmas at least 10 times in three newsletters over a week, yesterday's Sunday Mail reported. They also said the principal had subjected them to "direct and indirect discrimination'' by treating more favourably people who called themselves Christians.

The Jowseys took offence at such phrases as "Christmas concert'' and "Christmas disco'' and the principal's greeting "I would like to take this opportunity to wish all families a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe Christmas holiday period''.

In a letter of response, Ms Allen apologised for offending Mr Jowsey and his family.

"You are right in that there are many references to Christmas and the Christmas season in the recent newsletters,'' she wrote.

"On reflection, I should have referred to the holiday season rather than the Christmas season.''

Ms Allen has declined to comment.

Mr Jowsey reportedly said religious celebrations had no place in state schools.

"I'm not being a Scrooge,'' he was quoted as saying.

"The celebration of religious events has no place in state schools. "We've had enough and you don't have a right to push it down everybody's throats.''

The Jowsey's complaint was roundly criticised. Brisbane Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby said the whole country accepted Australia had a traditional Christmas season and no-one should be offended.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said the Jowsey family had not been discriminated against, while the school's Parents and Citizens Association said the principal's newsletter comments had been made in good faith.

Premier Peter Beattie agreed the complaint was "political correctness gone mad'' and also supported Ms Allen's use of the word Christmas.

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