A West Virginia mayor seems to be out of the doghouse after reversing a controversial decision to change the name of an annual Christmas parade.
Mayor Amy Goodwin made a quick about-face after announcing Monday that the annual “Charleston Christmas Parade” would be renamed as the “Charleston Winter Parade,” sparking an immediate backlash from the community, church leaders, and local lawmakers.
Goodwin’s announcement and subsequent attempt to address the changes to the capital city’s tradition earned more criticism despite her appeal to encourage inclusivity. The Democrat clarified that the parade’s theme would remain “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” but for many past participants, the new rules were not acceptable.
“Being part of a church, we feel like you can’t take Christ out of Christmas,” Georgeanne Leak, a daycare director at Morris Memorial United Methodist Church, told WCHS-TV.
“When you change the rules so drastically I feel like you are cheating families out of something they were really looking forward to,” she said.
One of the new rules for the parade included a ban on any religious figures being depicted, threatening that a float could be pulled from the parade lineup for failing to comply.
Republican State Senate President Mitch Carmichael condemned the move and called on the freshman mayor to end the “madness.”
“It is clear, these radicals have no interest in our Christmas traditions or in following our United States Constitution,” he wrote on Facebook. “We are calling on Mayor Goodwin and her liberal allies to end this madness and allow our citizens to freely and fully exercise their Freedom of Religion with a CHRISTMAS PARADE.”
Amid the backlash and several local churches declaring they would sit out the event this year, Goodwin reversed her original decision citing “much consideration and conversation with religious leaders from all faiths and community members.”
“We understand the history and tradition of the parade and we want to continue that for years to come,” she said in a statement on Facebook.
“I truly appreciate all the calls, emails and feedback we have received regarding the Charleston parade. However, the kind of vitriol that has come forth since announcing the change in the name of the parade has been truly disappointing and hurtful. But I do respect those individuals’ freedom to deliver that message to my doorstep,” she said.
Goodwin reiterated her original message of inclusivity.
“To be sure, this city needs everyone included. We need to be kind. We need to work together, and this administration will continue to work every day for a more inclusive community where everyone is welcome to celebrate and come together,” she said.
Carmichael and others praised the change.
“Christmas celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a central holiday for thousands of Christians in our Capitol City and throughout West Virginia,” he said in another statement.
“I am thankful Mayor Goodwin listened to her constituents and decided to cancel her plans to rename the parade … People of all faiths, Christian, Judaism, Islam and all other faiths, should never feel as though the government is prohibiting their ability to worship and celebrate their religion,” Carmichael added. “That is what inclusion looks like and that is what West Virginia should look like.”
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