|NATIONAL US NEWS|AFP – Officials in an Ohio town canceled their Christmas parade this year to avoid huge legal fees in defending the tradition from possible lawsuits by religious groups.
The legal hurdle surfaced when the private group that for 28 years had funded the parade in Amelia village recently announced it could no longer do so, prompting the village mayor to step in with public funds.
On a lawyer’s advice, the mayor decided to change the name of the event from Christmas Parade to the more neutral “Holiday Parade” to avoid lawsuits and abide by constitutional rules about the separation of church and state.
“Even though it may seem silly,” Mayor Leroy Ellington said, “the legal fees that the village would spend to defend ‘A Christmas Parade’ would be costly.”
“There was the likelihood that we would be sued on a first amendment issue,” he added, referring to the constitutional requirements for secular government.
However, the name change did not sit well with local church officials, who promptly threatened to boycott the event if it was no longer called “A Christmas Parade.”
Faced with legal quarrels and logistical problems in organizing the parade, Ellington threw in the towel.
“As a citizen I want a Christmas parade, as a mayor I’ve an obligation to prevent the village from spending unnecessary tax dollars,” he said on announcing that his office was dropping out of the organization drive.