Shelby Co. employees spar over Kwanzaa celebration invite - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby Co. employees spar over Kwanzaa celebration invite

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A fiery e-mail battle erupted among Shelby County employees this week after a commissioner invited them to a Kwanzaa celebration at the commission chambers.

Commissioner Henri Brooks sent an invitation to the event to county employees via e-mail.

The invitation offended probate court clerk Chris Thomas, who sent his own mass e-mail.

"I AM SORRY BUT WHY ARE WE SPONSORING A RELIGIOUS CEREMONY FOR ONE GROUP NOT CHRISTMAS AND HANNUKAH? I DO NOT THINK THIS IS APPROPRIATE!!!!!" he wrote, misspelling Hanukkah.

Kwanzaa celebrates black and African culture and is not religious.

But that did not stop the flood of messages, some supporting Kwanzaa, others agreeing with Thomas. There were so many messages the county's technology department sent its own, this one reminding employees about the proper use of government e-mail.

But county officials say the celebration will go on as planned.

"My understanding is that Kwanzaa is not a religion or a religious movement," county attorney Brian Kuhn said.

Religious symbols, such as Nativity scenes, are not allowed on county property, but holiday parties and luncheons that aren't linked to specific religions are allowed.

Brooks is a Christian and celebrates Christmas as well as Kwanzaa.

"I just find it quite appalling that individuals who supposedly are educated elected officials would be so ignorant about a cultural celebration," she said.

The event will take place on Dec. 26 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in commission chambers. It's free and open to the public.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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