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California retirees express anger over Christmas tree ban

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 6th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Who would be so dastardly as to deprive retirees, enjoying their golden years, the opportunity to celebrate Christmas? JB Partners Group Inc., based in Tarzana has ordered that the Christmas tree, along with menorahs be taken down at the Willows senior apartment complex in Newhall, California. They say that such items are "religious symbols." Residents of the Willows have since staged a protest.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - JB Partners Group Inc. has owned The Willows for four years, and this is the first time it's given such a directive to its staff.

Twenty or more tenants in the 75-resident complex gathered in the lobby to place a green sign that read: "Please Save Our Tree."

"We're all angry. We want that tree," Fern Scheel says. Having lived at the complex for nearly two years, she sees little sense in the decoration ban. "Where's our freedom? This is ridiculous."

The Willows staff, along with JB Property supervisor Wethanie Law has declined all comments.

JB Partners Group owns apartments in California, Oklahoma and Colorado.

According to resident Edna Johnson, Law had told her the tree had to be taken down because it's a religious symbol. "We could put out Easter baskets, have turkey for Thanksgiving but no tree for Christmas because it has Christ's name in the beginning of Christmas," Johnson said.

"This tree is a symbol of reverence that we can all enjoy regardless of our religious beliefs," Frances Schaeffer, who is Jewish, says.

Some of the tenants aren't taking this lightly. Max Greenis, having lived at the complex for a year with his wife says he's considering withholding his rent in protest of what he calls an abomination of the holiday tradition.

"I've got grandkids and they come here and now they'll ask, 'Grandpa, where's the Christmas tree?' Then I'll have to explain that someone said we couldn't have one. What kind of message is that sending to the kids?" Greenis asked.

After the coffee-and-doughnuts protest rally, some incensed residents got so riled that they began taking the tree apart themselves.

"For some folks this is the only Christmas tree they'll have all season," resident Robert Troudeau said. "There are people overseas fighting for our freedoms and dying and we're here fighting over things like this. It's a shame."

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