A guideline by the EU Commission on inclusive communication has caused outrage in Italy as far as the Vatican. The commission wanted to ban words like “Christmas”, “Joseph” or “Maria”, it said. But behind this are false claims.
Fake News: A language guide by EU Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli is causing heated feelings. And not just in Brussels, because people are outraged even in the Vatican. The reason is that the guideline for non-discriminatory language in the European Commission, which has since been withdrawn, advised against using words like Christmas or Maria.
A guideline that forbids employees of the EU Commission to use the words “Christmas” and “Joseph and Mary” in their communication – at least that is how it was presented in various media.
Outrage in Italy
The outrage was particularly loud in Italy. There was even criticism from the Vatican: Cardinal State Secretary Pietro Parolin spoke in connection with the EU Commission’s inclusive guideline of a tendency to “standardize everything and not even respect the justified differences.” He sees the danger of turning away from Christian roots and suppressing reality.
Diversity instead of standardization
A misunderstanding? The EU Commission’s internal guideline was precisely about promoting respect for differences. Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Equal Opportunities, names the initiative’s aim “to illustrate the diversity of European culture and to emphasize the integrative character of the European Commission towards all European citizens, regardless of what social class they belong to and what convictions they represent . “
“Christmas” is not cancelled!
The point was not to delete the word “Christmas”, but to consider that not all citizens celebrate Christmas. An often-cited recommendation from the guideline is to say “Holidays can be stressful” instead of “Christmas can be stressful”. Will this cancel Christmas? No, because immediately afterwards the recommended sentence is continued with “for everyone who celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah”.
So it was not about omitting the Christian festival, but depending on the person you are talking to or the people you are speaking to, thinking of Jewish festivals or of Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas later.
No talk of Joseph
“This portrayal is disinformation operated by the usual populists,” writes Felix Neumann, editor of kathisch.de on Twitter. It is an outright lie that people are advised not to talk about “Mary and Joseph”. In the example that the critics of the EU guideline use as evidence for this, it does not speak of “Maria and Joseph”, but of “Maria and John”.
And it is by no means about Christmas, but about international partnerships. When talking about fictional people, the example advises not only using Christian names as examples, but also names with a different religious background. An international couple could therefore also be called “Malika and Julio” and not “Maria and John”, which perhaps more Christian people would think of.
Place for religious rituals
Even if the internal EU guideline has meanwhile been withdrawn and is being revised, it does not represent an attack on Christianity. On the contrary, it even places value on the representation of different traditions and religions, according to Felix Neumann. “I find that quite remarkable and gratifying in a religiously often rather unmusical EU.”
The German Bishops’ Conference also apparently sees no attack on the Christian West. One does not want to comment on “alleged” documents that have been “withdrawn”.
No longer “Ladies and Gentlemen”?
EU Vice-President Margaritis Schinas does not seem to take the matter very seriously. “I hope to be able to welcome you here in the Commission with ladies and gentlemen,” he mocked at the beginning of a press conference that afternoon.
In the language guide it was pointed out that women and men may not address everyone. Colleagues would better represent the diversity in the EU Commission. In fact, the main concern of the Equality Commissioner was to communicate more considerately. So one should not speak of handicapped people but of physically impaired people.
“Angry regulation rage”
Of course, such inclusive language, which reflects diversity and sensitivities, is also very important at the European level, says Martin Schirdewan, group leader of the Left in the EU Parliament. However, he calls it “hiccough regulatory rage” that the word Christmas should not be used.
He asked himself whether the “overpaid commission officials got bored so shortly before Christmas”, and the impression remained that “not all the candles on the Schwibbogen are lit” for them.
Instead of “Maria and Joseph” rather “Malika and Julio”
In fact, EU Commissioner Dalli has overshot the mark in the eyes of many. Especially with her recommendation to avoid the word “Christmas time” out of consideration for non-Christians and to speak better of Malika and Julio instead of the biblical names Maria and Joseph.
The cultural policy spokeswoman for the AfD in the EU Parliament, Christine Anderson, even suspects that the guidelines – under the guise of cultural sensitivity – wanted to abolish their own culture. She calls the EU Commission’s inclusive guide a “guide to self-denial” and an “attempt to cut all strands of tradition and identity”.
For the factions on the far right in the EU Parliament, the paper confirms all the prejudices of Brussels’ tutelage.
Christmas must be allowed to stay Christmas
The Commission has done itself a disservice with the guidelines, says not only Daniel Caspary, the chairman of the CDU / CSU group in the EU Parliament. For him, it is also rather questionable whether such a language guide is really needed.
In any case, it is to be welcomed that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen immediately asked for the paper to be revised. After all, freedom of religion prevails in Europe, and that means not only tolerance towards other religions, but also that Christians are allowed to live and name their Christmas celebrations and other Christian traditions.
The Equality Commissioner has since withdrawn her guidelines. It is an immature document that clearly still needs to be revised.