EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 1, 2009

Bah! Humbug!: Town outlaws Merry Christmas sign

Made by firefighters 50 years ago

NORTH ANDOVER — First it was the menorah on the town common. Now it's the Merry Christmas sign on the fire station.

The town has put an end to a longtime holiday tradition ordering firefighters to take down their homemade Merry Christmas sign from outside the fire station after people complained. The sign had been up for a week before it was taken down Friday.

Fire Chief William Martineau said the sign was made by firefighters some 50 years ago and was never an issue before.

"I think Christmas is officially a religious holiday. But to all of us, it has always been a holiday for the kids," Martineau said. "It just seems sad."

The sign is now sitting in the basement and there's only one decoration hanging from the station — a Happy New Year sign.

This is the second holiday controversy in two weeks for the town.

Andover Rabbi Asher Bronstein has threatened a lawsuit against North Andover after the selectmen would not let him place a menorah on the town common for all eight days of Hanukkah.

Selectmen voted on Nov. 23 to allow the menorah for one day. They argue that their new town common policy only allows displays to stay up for one day, no matter what they are. That way all groups have equal time and there is no discrimination.

Attorneys for the town and the rabbi are in talks.

Town officials said yesterday that the menorah fight is what caused Merry Christmas to be outlawed at the fire station for the first time in five decades.

"This is political correctness run amok," selectmen's Chairman Tracy Watson said. "It's really an unfortunate turn of events. ... This has become all about religion, and from the start it has had nothing to do with religion. We were enforcing a policy."

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