Another city has caved to out-of-state threats of a lawsuit from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Piedmont, Alabama was to hold their traditional Christmas parade with the theme “Keep Christ in Christmas”. Now it will be called the City of Piedmont Christmas Parade after backing down from a threat of being sued by the FFRF. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been active in that community for months fighting the practice of saying prayers at high school football games.
According to the group, the foundation sent a letter Nov. 24 challenging the parade’s theme of “Keep Christ in Christmas” as unconstitutional. The letter also cited a statement that the parade would “reflect our strong belief in prayers.”
The Foundation argued that the theme violates the Constitution’s First Amendment establishment clause. A government celebration of Christmas, it argued, is only permissible because courts have ruled certain aspects of the holiday to be secular symbols, such as Christmas trees.
The “Keep Christ in Christmas” 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,” the letter stated.
In a Dec. 1 letter, the city responded through the law firm of Merrill, Merrill, Mathews and Allen that the parade would be renamed the “City of Piedmont Christmas Parade.”
Foundation Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel said the challenge came after a local citizen reported the parade to the foundation. He said that person found out through a promotion on the Piedmont High School Facebook page. The post promoting the parade has since been changed also, he said.
“I’ve never seen a city with a “Keep Christ in Christmas” theme for a city-sponsored parade,” he said. “Usually we see that in other places in signs on city property that we ask to be taken down.”
Earlier this year, Piedmont City School officials received a letter on March 20 from an attorney with the foundation. The letter said a local resident, who was not named, reported the system was violating the First Amendment by allowing a public prayer over the public address system at football games.
The prayer has since been replaced with a moment of silence.