Officials in Piedmont, Alabama, thought it would be no big deal when they decided to adopt "Keep Christ in Christmas" as this year's holiday parade theme, but an atheist activist group's intervention forced the city to drop the faith-based sentiment.
Mayor Bill Baker told Fox News' Todd Starnes that the town selected the theme to commemorate the true reason for Christmas, but after a sole individual reportedly complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist group, Piedmont was forced to change its plans.
The group fired off a letter to the city late last month, calling the Christian motto unconstitutional.
"It was a great theme. I was totally shocked when I received the letter," Baker told Starnes. "It’s a small town. It’s a small Christmas parade. We didn’t think there would be any problems at all."
The letter asked the city to select a “more appropriate, more inclusive, and constitutional theme," charging that the theme "alienates non-Christians and others in Piedmont who do not in fact have a ‘strong belief in prayers’ by turning them into political outsiders in their own community."
Piedmont's city attorney told the mayor that the theme does, in fact, violate the law and so it was dropped, but, as Starnes reported, that didn't dissuade residents from commemorating the true reason for the Christmas season.
"Nothing has really changed. We still have the same religious floats. We still have the churches. We still have the beauty queens," Baker said before the parade unfolded Thursday night. "We’re still going to have this wonderful Christian parade regardless of if we have a theme or not."
Hundreds of residents found ways around the Freedom From Religion Foundation's complaint, with many holding signs that read "Let's Keep Christ in Christmas," among other religious messages, while they marched — a legal alternative that put the messages in citizens' hands.
One man even dressed up like Jesus and looked as though he was hanging on a cross.
Despite the strong religious messages in the parade and the work-around, Baker said he isn't the happiest with atheists' intervention in the celebration.
"It annoys me that a small group of people can do what they do and get away with it and the majority has to suffer," he said. "They are infringing on my beliefs."
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(H/T: Todd Starnes)