The European Commission was forced into an about turn after its guide to internal communication was accused of trying to cancel "Christmas" by having provisions that included getting staff to refer to the celebration as the "holiday season."
The EU's equality commissioner Helena Dalli, in late October had unveiled a 30-page guide on how to use more gender-neutral, LGBTQ friendly language in the Commission, Politico reported Nov. 30.
It advised changes to language around Christmas and the use of "Christian names" because they could suggest "intolerance or judgment, fuel stereotypes or single out one religious group."
"Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates. Be sensitive," the 32-page document stated.
The Italian tabloid newspaper il Giornale picked up on the document which led to a torrent of abuse on social media as well as from a senior official in the Vatican, far-right politicians and a former EU commissioner, according to Politico.
The protests forced Dalli to backtrack.
"Concern was raised with regards to some examples provided in the Guidelines on Inclusive Communication, which as is customary with such guidelines, is [a] work in progress," Dalli tweeted.
"We are looking into these concerns with the view of addressing them in an updated version of the guidelines."
She said "My initiative to draft guidelines as an internal document for communication by commission staff in their duties was intended to achieve an important aim: to illustrate the diversity of European culture and showcase the inclusive nature of the European commission towards all walks of life and beliefs of European citizens.
"However, the version of the guidelines published does not adequately serve this purpose. It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document," the Guardian reported
The document is part of a plan backed by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to implement a "Union of Equality" and make sure that "everyone is valued and recognized in all our material regardless of their gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation," Politico reported.
The document asked officials to "never address an audience as 'ladies and gentlemen' but use expressions such as 'Dear colleagues.'"
It also called on Commission staffers to refrain from using the terms "Miss or Mrs, unless it is the explicit preference of the person addressed," and instead to use "Ms universally."
The most controversial part of the advice was to "avoid assuming that everyone is Christian."
"Not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates," says the document. It advises staff to avoid sentences such as "Christmas time can be stressful" and instead use "Holiday times can be stressful."
It also says not to use the phrase "Christian names" and to use "first name" or "forename" instead as well as not using names "that are typically from one religion." It gives the example of using "Malika and Julio" instead of "Maria and John" to describe an "international couple."
Europe's Catholic bishops said on Tuesday that a withdrawn document discouraging European Commission staff from using the word "Christmas" was marred by "anti-religious bias," Catholic News Agency reported Dec. 1.
The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the withdrawal on Nov. 30 of the 32-page internal document called "#UnionOfEquality. European Commission Guidelines for Inclusive Communication."
"While respecting the right of the European Commission to model its written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non-discrimination, COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document," the bishops' commission said.
"While respecting the right of the European Commission to model its written and verbal communication, and appreciating the importance of equality and non-discrimination, COMECE cannot help being concerned about the impression that an anti-religious bias characterized some passages of the draft document," the bishops' said.