Christmas Tree Ban in Sharon Schools Leads to Community Conflict

A committee of nine Sharon parents, school officials and representatives of the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish communities will be named to study the issue of Christmas trees in Sharon public schools as the outgrowth of a divisive community battle on the question which led to abuses and threats of violence and bodily harm.

The struggle began when principals of three Sharon schools banned Christmas trees earlier this month, an act that touched off widespread protests and a petition for a public meeting to protest the decision and to seek to persuade the Sharon School Committee to reverse a directive under which the principals had acted. The School Committee refused earlier to hold a meeting for that purpose.

At the pubic meeting, attended by 800 aroused residents, the Rev. Daniel C. Tuttle, pastor of the Sharon First Baptist Church, proposed a resolution calling on the meeting chairman, William Eastman, to name the committee to study the issue and present a report by October 15, 1963. The resolution had been adopted unanimously by the Sharon Interfaith Council of which Rabbi Shemai Kanter of Temple Israel and Rabbi Henry Bamburger of Temple Sinai are members. The assemblage adopted the resolution.

The committee is to be made up of three of the six members of the School Committee, three parents named by the Parent-Teachers Association, and one representative of each of the three religious faiths. Two Jewish speakers clashed at the meeting. Mrs. Carl Poley, asserting she spoke as a Jew, said that many Jews wanted to see Christmas trees in public schools. Manuel Katz, a Sharon Selectman, differed strongly, offering a lengthy statement on the American principle of church-state separation which he said applied to the situation in Sharon, a community of 1,800.

James Leonard urged those present to respect the views of others “under the glare of television,” a reference to the fact that the dispute attracted the interest of national networks who covered the meeting. He recalled that Jews and Christians had always worked in harmony in Sharon and urged all persons present to reject appeals to prejudice.

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