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True to no-church policy

The Patriots Day Parade Committee is sticking to its guns.

There will be no overt religious or political groups in the 2007 parade.

“As far as I know that has been the policy of the parade since it began in 1967,” said parade committee President Charles Quilter II.

The policy does not sit well with some critics.

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Minister Jay Grant is adamantly opposed to the parade’s exclusion of churches, as he made clear in recent letters to local newspapers.

“We would have preferred to let this die quietly, until we were specifically asked about it,” Quilter said. “Most of the people on our committee are members of one of the 19 churches in town and they were wounded that he would imply that these people of faith are not being Christians by excluding the churches. It hurt.”

The policy excluding organized religious groups also applies to Jewish temples and Muslim congregations. If revoked, the ban would automatically mean military groups, such as the U.S. Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard or the Third Marine Aircraft Wing Band from Miramar, no longer would participate, according to Quilter.

“They can’t support specific religious denominations,” Quilter said.

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The parade does include church-sponsored, service or non-religions-activity groups, such as the Baha’i dance group.

“Boy Scout Troop 35, which meets at Laguna Beach Presbyterian Church has been in the parade since it began and it will be again this year, as it has in all the years in between,” Quilter said.

St. Catherine’s School is accepted as a school, although operated by St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church.

The committee has the law on its side when it comes to accepting participants in the parade.

Last year, the Minuteman Project sued to be allowed in the parade, but the courts sided with the committee, which had denied their application.

“Case law across the county has consistently made it clear that any civic organization that puts on a parade can exclude or include any one it wants.” Quilter said.

It’s a case-by-case decision.

“As far as we are concerned the Laguna Beach Democratic or Republican clubs would be nonstarters,” Quilter said.

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However, City Council members, nominally nonpartisan, are included, and considered to be community volunteers, not professional politicians.

Groups that are active in community affairs as well as politics or that might use the parade to make a political statement are carefully vetted.

“Village Laguna is a longtime participant of the parade,” Quilter said. “It has a political action committee, but the members do not carry signs in the parade saying ‘Throw the Bums out of Office’.”

The application of the Peace Vigil was discussed at length before the committee approved its participation.

Every male member of the committee at the time was a veteran, Quilter said, and the decision to include the group was unanimous.

“Anyone who has ever been in combat on the pointy end and has been shot at or lost friends and has seen the death and destruction in war — at some level or another is wishing for peace,” Quilter said. “You go to war to get peace. We didn’t want to be the committee that didn’t support peace.”

Signs and scripts provided to parade announcers are monitored for political or religious overtones.


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