Nobody likes being left out. Nobody likes being excluded. Nobody likes being told they are not wanted. A deep and basic human need is inclusion, especially when you love something.
I love Laguna Beach, having lived here for 37 years. I’ve coached Little League and youth basketball at the Boys and Girls Club, worked at the Sawdust Festival for 33 years and compiled a book on the early years of the Sawdust.
I also wrote for this paper for 11 years, six of those years as sports editor, covering hundreds of our high school athletes.
But my greatest joy is pastoring at the Little Church by the Sea, two blocks down from the high school.
Two hundred and fifty Laguna residents make their spiritual home in our church and we are thrilled to serve both them and Laguna through our ministry. My love for the city and the church is one.
So when the Patriots Day Committee arbitrarily chooses to exclude the churches of Laguna Beach (and any other expression of faith) it stings. I have felt this sting for more than eight years, contending year after year for inclusion. But the committee so far has just stiffened its neck and refused to bend. It has pointedly said churches are not welcome nor wanted.
I’ve not been able to find any other city in America that prohibits churches from its community parade, just Laguna Beach. Why? What’s the reason?
Nobody knows (or admits) who it was that originally suggested a by-law excluding churches. The committee does assert that to admit churches would be to allow proselytizing, even if it’s only a truck with a sign on it. But that is plainly not true.
The dictionary says proselytizing means “to actively recruit or to induce someone to convert to a particular point of view.”
Driving a flatbed truck, inscribed with our name, with a few of our kids holding miniature American flags, is not proselytizing — not any more than signage announcing the Chocolate Lovers of America or the Rotary Club.
The by-law needs to be changed. The rule excluding churches and other faiths is thoroughly unjustified and wrong.
If it isn’t discrimination it sure feels like it. And why does the city council put up with this exclusion of a big part of our community?
I know this. The city wouldn’t put up with African-Americans being excluded from the parade, or women, or Japanese, or Hispanics, or gays, or Jews, or any other group that historically has felt bias. And it shouldn’t allow the exclusion of churches.
During the civil rights movement this slogan was used by the proponents of those wanting to exclude blacks from mainstream society: “Red birds and blue birds don’t fly together.”
In Laguna, churches don’t march with the rest of our community.
I personally find it hard to believe that Laguna allows this exclusion, a city that prides itself on its diversity and tolerance.
This exclusion needs to end. If not, I’d like to suggest that the name of our parade be accurately changed to the Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade for Some of the Community.