CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ/AP) — The mayor of Charleston says the city has reversed its decision to change the name of the annual "Christmas Parade" after intense backlash from church leaders and others.
Charleston Mayor Amy Schuler Goodwin said Thursday she is disappointed and hurt by the "vitriol" since her announcement that the event would be renamed the "Charleston Winter Parade." However, she said she respects those critics' freedom to express themselves.
"After much consideration and conversation with religious leaders from all faiths and community members, we have decided to keep the name, 'Charleston Christmas Parade,'" Goodwin wrote. "We understand the history and tradition of the parade and we want to continue that for years to come."
She had announced on Monday that she planned to rename the "Charleston Christmas Parade" the "Charleston Winter Parade."
Goodwin said the intention behind the initial name change was "to show that Charleston is a welcoming and inclusive city."
"We did not mean or intend any disrespect to any person, group or religion and we did not mean to exclude anyone from the parade, actually it is the exact opposite," said Goodwin. "We want to include EVERYONE."
Officials from several churches quickly criticized the decision and said they wouldn't attend.State Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a Republican, issued a statement saying the renaming was the handiwork of "Charleston's elite liberals."
"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," he said.
Goodwin publicly reversed her decision on Thursday.
The parade will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12. The parade is typically on a Saturday morning. The mayor says one reason for having the parade on a weeknight is to be able to incorporate holiday lights, beautiful window displays, and to bring people into downtown shops.
Here is the full statement Goodwin released Thursday afternoon:
"I truly appreciate all the calls, emails and feedback we have received over the last couple of days regarding the Charleston Christmas Parade. We decided to move the parade to the evening of Thursday, December 12 after consultation with business owners to create an amazing festive scene with window decorations and lights. In considering changing the name of the parade, we wanted to show that Charleston is a welcoming and inclusive City. We did not mean or intend any disrespect to any person, group or religion and we did not mean to exclude anyone from the parade, actually it is the exact opposite. We want to include EVERYONE.
After much consideration and conversation with religious leaders from all faiths and community members, we have decided to keep the name “Charleston Christmas Parade.” We understand the history and tradition of the parade and we want to continue that for years to come.
It is truly amazing when citizens get involved in the process. I have said from the beginning we welcome input from everyone. Our staff does an amazing job taking phone calls and meetings with anyone and everyone that wants to participate in the process in a meaningful way. These citizen interactions are the cornerstone to any good government and will remain front and center in this Administration.
In addition to the parade, there will be a series of events starting at 5:00 p.m. that will celebrate a variety of cultures, religions, organizations and will be a celebration of all Charleston has to offer. The evening culminate with the Christmas Parade starting at 7:00 p.m. I want to personally invite everyone to downtown Charleston to not only come to these events, but to enjoy our amazing restaurants and shop our downtown. It will be a magical evening in Charleston."
UPDATE (Oct. 8):
Charleston Mayor Amy Schuler Goodwin took to Facebook Wednesday to talk about the decision to make some changes to the city's newly named "Charleston Winter Parade."
The parade, formerly known as the "Charleston Christmas Parade," will now take place on a Thursday night. It was typically scheduled on a Saturday morning.
The mayor says one reason for having the parade on a weeknight is to be able to incorporate holiday lights, beautiful window displays, and to bring people into downtown shops.
She also addressed the move to take "Christmas" out of the event's title. The move is drawing criticism, along with parade guidelines that say "no advocating, opposing or depicting of any political, religious figures or social issues."
Goodwin said in the Facebook video that those float guidelines are established by the Charleston Town Center who partners with the city to host the parade. Adding, they've been that way for more than a decade.
"I wanted you to know tonight that I want everyone to be engaged and involved in this parade. this is the time of year that we need to come together and I'm looking forward to seeing you on December 12," Goodwin said in a portion of her Facebook video on the city of Charleston's Facebook page.