'Santa' Says He Was Fired

82-year-old Al Harrison says he was fired from Bonita Lakes Mall about two weeks ago. For the last five years, he had portrayed Santa at the mall.
That all came to an end after he says he was let go for sharing his religion with patrons.

According to Harrison, over the years after a child had taken the picture, and left his seat to look at nearby things, he would ask the parent if he or she knew what the candy cane that he gave their child meant. He told them it symbolized the crucifixion. Then he says he would ask the parent if he or she knew his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Up until this year he says he had not had any problems.

"I was telling this to a young lady and whenever I asked her, 'Do you have him?' She told me, 'I didn't come for nothing but a picture,' and she walked out. And I feel that that is the one that caused me to get fired," said Harrison.

Harrison says he was fired just hours after this incident. During the five years while serving as Santa at the mall, he says he had been told that the mall did not want the liability behind his actions. Despite this, he says he always had talked with parents about his beliefs and prior to being fired had never had any problems.

"Were you surprised? A little bit 'Yes,' but after seeing the woman I thought that I had maybe messed up. Had given them something to complain about," said Harrison. "I'm not real sure if I want the job back. The only thing that I'm concerned about is that they're shutting off Santa Claus. They're cutting Christ out of Christmas."

Renee Williams, who is the general manager for Bonita Lakes Mall, says each year the mall contracts with an outside company to provide the Santas.

Newscenter 11 received an e-mail from Cherry Hill Photo of Marlton, New Jersey:

"The person portraying Santa at the mall was not terminated. He was simply suspended pending further investigation. He was, in fact, asked to return to his position at the mall."
Ed Warchol, president
Cherry Hill Photo

Harrison confirmed this around noon Christmas Eve. Of course, the mall closes at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by charity Location: ... on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:09 PM
    turandot that is not very funny this is a serious issue people should not be denied their rights and they also shouldnt have fired him for that , he was just doing as the lord had asked hi m ... their is no shame in that , i am actually very proud of this santa person for sharing the good news , its a very inspiring story :)
  • by Turandot Location: Miami, Florida on Jan 12, 2010 at 02:17 PM
    Huh? A candy cane symbolizes the crucifixion? I didn't know Jesus died on a peppermint flavored cross!!
  • by Anonymous on Jan 5, 2010 at 04:28 PM
    If he was such a christian he wouldn't be there in that fictional santa suit lying to kids about what they are going to bring them for christmas when we all know that to be a LIE...So what's the big deal??? That man aint losing nothing believe me he needs to be home rocking in a chair instead of at the mall creating problems
  • by Anonymous on Jan 3, 2010 at 12:58 PM
    Way to go Santa!!! And shame on the woman that complained. I feel sorry for her child. She does not know the reason for the season!!!
  • by JANE on Jan 1, 2010 at 09:21 PM
    ISNT CHRISTMAS THE CELBRATION OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST? WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO IF YOU CANT EVEN TALK ABOUT THE GIFT OF CHRIST WE WERE GIVEN DURING THE SEASON THAT IS ALL ABOUT CHRIST? UNREAL.....
  • by debbie Location: suqulena on Dec 31, 2009 at 08:50 PM
    Jesus said go and i will make you fishers of men .this man was doing what i have known him to do all his life tell people about his Lord and savior not only does he believe he lives his life as a teastment to me and all who know him. He loved playing santa every year . cherry hill should be ashamed and the lady who told, how lonely she must be not to know my Lord and Savior GOD has blessed this man i see it everyday I love you santa
  • by jim Location: suqulena on Dec 31, 2009 at 08:25 PM
    for all of you who don't know the connection between santa and christmas the next time you see mr. harrison ask him he'll be glad to tell you the whole story and don't be offended when he ask you if you know Jesus
  • by Jay on Dec 30, 2009 at 10:00 PM
    I'm not a christan my self but it is the right of christans to spread christanity. Not to metion this is mississippi and the christmas season. I mean the only nice non booze smelling santas I know are religious and this particular santa is not even pushy about it. I think people just tend to over react when there children are conserned.
  • by Tammy Location: Philadehia on Dec 30, 2009 at 09:40 PM
    Whoever "fired Santa" or whatever you call it should have gotten a lump of coal for Christmas. Just in case you don't know, Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, without Him there would be no CHRISTmas. You should be ashamed of yourselves!!!!! Keep on telling the true story Santa, don't let those people compromise your beliefs. And, if the lady or person who got you fired you should be ashamed too!!!!! Look deep into your heart and try to find forgivness for yourself.
  • by Bored Location: Meridian on Dec 30, 2009 at 06:53 PM
    Enough People! You are letting this whole thing divide us instead of all of us coming together for the season. How can such a small disagreement turn so many people against each other. Stop and think people. There are forces working and you are all playing into the plan. Say a prayer in regards to whatever faith you believe and have a Happy New Year!
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