The City of Taylor is refusing to sponsor the community’s annual Christmas parade this year after the event organizers limited participation to “entries … consistent with traditional biblical and family values.”
Instead, the city is sponsoring a separate parade in which “all are welcome to participate,” including a local LGBTQ group that featured two drag queens on its float in last year’s parade.
Taylor residents have enjoyed the community’s Christmas Parade of Lights for decades, but it didn’t become a source of controversy until last year, when attendees were treated to the sight of two crossdressing men jiving to dance music on one of the floats—right in front of the Saint Mary’s Catholic School float full of children.
Taylor Pride, a newly formed LGBTQ advocacy group that organized Williamson County’s first-ever gay pride festival last year, was responsible for the salacious float. When the group submitted its application for last year’s parade, nothing about drag queens was mentioned, and the volunteers processing applications were unfamiliar with the group.
A number of attendees and parents objected to the Taylor Pride float, prompting the Taylor Area Ministerial Alliance (TAMA), a local association of churches that has organized the parade for the past few years, to revise this year’s application form with the aforementioned qualification.
In a recent Facebook post, TAMA clarified its reasoning for the change, noting that the inclusion of Taylor Pride’s float in last year’s parade was an “oversight” and that having drag queens in a Christmas parade would have been “unthinkable” in previous years.
All people and all families, no matter what they look like, are welcome to enjoy the parade. The Taylor Christmas Parade of Lights is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. TAMA is an organization of churches that holds to traditional Biblical and family values. We want to make sure all entries do not contradict those values.
City of Taylor’s Response
Shortly after the publication of the revised application form, TAMA received a call from a city employee seeking more information about the new qualification, as they had not yet made a public statement about it. When the TAMA staff member explained why it had been included on the application form, the employee said city officials would need to consider whether they would sponsor this year’s parade.
Later, the Taylor city manager informed TAMA that the city would sponsor a separate parade without any restrictions on the kinds of entries allowed, but TAMA could still organize their own parade.
The City of Taylor announced that its official “Very Merry Holiday Parade” would occur on Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m., the same date and time TAMA had indicated for the annual Christmas parade. The city’s announcement clarified that “if other organizations are scheduled to hold a parade on the same date, the official City parade will immediately follow.”
Despite TAMA’s statement that participating in the parade has never been limited to Christians or entries that convey a religious message, the city has characterized TAMA as attempting to exclude certain groups.
In comments to KXAN Austin, Stacey Osborne, the City of Taylor communications director, blamed TAMA for instigating the controversy, saying they “made it clear that they did not want certain people to be a part of the parade.”
Osborne explained that the city decided to sponsor its own parade “in order to make sure that everybody in our city was included and felt like they could be a part of the celebration.”
She added that TAMA is “welcome to have their parade with the rules, requirements and restrictions they want to put on. It is completely their prerogative. But we wanted to make sure that everyone in the city could celebrate the holiday season with us.”
Unsurprisingly, the controversy has generated a great deal of division in the community.
On the TAMA Facebook page, several users posted comments accusing the organization of being hateful, and others were blatantly antagonistic.
“Man y’all are a very hateful hate-filled ignorant group that have nothing to do with love or respect or living by the Bible,” user Ryan Phillips asserted.
User Amy M. Ottmers joked, “It will be so fun when a huge crowd of the LGBT community shows up to watch the parade and surround your children!!!!!!!”
Meanwhile, the city received critical comments on its Facebook page.
Teri Fox Marx stated, “Not interested in a pagan parade. We celebrate with Christmas parades in our family.”
“This is the Anti-Christmas Parade,” Jerry Leshikar quipped.
“Way to promote more division City of Taylor!” Laura Merrill Harms scoffed.
Citizens, businesses, and organizations are likewise divided regarding which parade to attend or join as participants, as that decision conveys what their values are and risks alienating prospective customers or constituents.
A Pastor’s Perspective
Jeff Ripple, the pastor of Christ Fellowship Church and a member of TAMA, said that some businesses and organizations that previously participated in the Christmas parade chose to join the city’s parade this year, while others decided not to participate in either one.
However, some of the participants in this year’s TAMA parade are joining for the first time, looking at the event as an opportunity to express their support for traditional family values. Among these participants is a wedding venue located more than 30 miles from Taylor.
Ripple believes the recent controversy is part of a coordinated effort to silence people of faith, and he fears the city won’t allow TAMA to organize a Christmas parade next year. He said he’s already witnessed this effect among local pastors, as many have declined to speak out on the issue because they don’t want to “ruffle some feathers.”
In spite of the division arising from TAMA’s response to the incident in last year’s parade, Ripple stands by their decision to restrict entries to those that don’t contradict biblical values.
“I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but as a Christian organization … we could not in good conscience allow what we believe is contrary to what the Bible teaches,” Ripple stated. “Because we believe the Bible is true, we believe the most loving thing we can do is stand up for the truth.”