In the latest skirmish over Christmas in America, a Christian group is not allowed to participate in Denver’s annual Parade of Lights, because church members sought to sing yuletide hymns and proclaim a “Merry Christmas” message on their float.

However, the event, now in its 30th year, will include homosexual American Indians, Kung Fu artisans, belly dancers and, of course, Santa Claus.

“I think there’s an agenda that is anti-Christian,” Pastor George Morrison, tells WorldNetDaily. “It seems like this agenda has crept in, and it’s robbing us.”

Morrison heads the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colo., among Denver’s largest evangelical churches with over 4,000 attendees each week.

The parade, slated for tomorrow and Saturday nights, is produced by Denver Civic Ventures, Inc., with heavy promotion by its flagship sponsor, KUSA-TV, the local NBC affiliate.

The hour-long event features highly decorated floats with symbols of the holiday season such as Santa Claus, gingerbread houses and toy soldiers, along with what’s billed as an “international procession to celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity of the region,” according to its website.

Santa Claus float called one of the ‘most anticipated moments’ in Denver’s Parade of Lights (KUSA-TV)

Among those allowed to participate is the Two Spirit Society of Denver, a support group for American Indians who are homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered, honoring them as “holy people.”

Also included are performers of the Lion Dance, a Chinese New Year tradition “meant to chase away evil spirits and welcome good luck and good fortune for the year,” reports the Rocky Mountain News.

Despite the inclusion of these groups with spiritual connotations, parade spokesman Michael Krikorian said the event does not allow “direct religious themes.” Included in the ban are signs that read “Merry Christmas” and the singing or playing of Christmas hymns.

“We want to avoid that specific religious message out of respect for other religions in the region,” Krikorian told the News. “It could be construed as disrespectful to other people who enjoy a parade each year.”

He notes the church group was informed of the policy last spring when it first inquired about participation.

Pastor George Morrison

“I could not believe what I was hearing,” Morrison told WND. “I was floored. I assumed it was a Christmas parade.”

Morrison says he attended last year’s event and noticed a lack of any connection with Christianity, which sparked his interest to be included in the first place.

“Maybe they should hold Parade of Lights in January or February,” Morrison told the News. “By holding it in December, it’s assumed by a majority of people that the reasons the lights are up is the continuation of the celebration of the birth of Christ. In America, that’s our tradition, that’s what the holiday is about.”

As WorldNetDaily previously reported, Christmas celebrations were actually banned by Christians who settled colonial America in the 17th and 18th centuries, as many felt the holiday was based more on paganism than Scripture.

But celebrations grew in popularity during the 19th century, starting with Washington Irving’s 1820 book “The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall.” A week before Christmas in 1834, Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol,” and in 1860, American illustrator Thomas Nast created Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus, based on European stories of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

In recent years, battles have ignited each winter across the U.S. as the public display of religion becomes a hot topic. The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, has been leading the charge in many instances to preclude expressions of faith in the public arena, though the group is not involved in the Denver parade.

Recently, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, announced the phrase “Merry Christmas” would be replaced at city hall next year with “Happy Holidays.”

Catholic League president William Donohue issued a statement yesterday on this year’s attempts to ban Christmas.

“This is only the beginning of the Christmas season and already the anti-Christmas crusade is in high gear,” he said. “In the name of ‘separation of church and state,’ they distort it. In the name of diversity, they crush it. In the name of tolerance, they obliterate it. Which is why we need to call them for what they are – cultural fascists.”

As far as the Parade of Lights in Denver is concerned, Morrison says he has been contacted by several attorneys, but he’s no longer interested in participating this weekend, as he would need time to prepare a proper entry.

But he adds members of his church will be walking the parade route an hour before it starts.

“We’re going to sing Christmas carols to people on the street,” he told WND. “We’re not promoting a boycott.”

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