City Council Approves Tulsa's Holiday Parade Of Lights Permit 5 To 3

Tuesday, December 7th 2010, 11:17 am
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Tulsa City Council voted Tuesday to approve a permit for Tulsa's Holiday Parade of Lights this Saturday, December 11, 2010.

12/6/2010 Related story: Controversy Over Tulsa's Christmas Parade Continues

The vote was 5 to 3 with councilors Maria Barnes, Jack Henderson, Bill Christiansen, GT Bynum and Chris Trail for the approval.

"As Christians we should be more concerned about putting Christ in people's hearts more than putting his name on a parade," Councilor Trail said.

City Council members Rick Westcott and Jim Mautino voted against granting the permit. Councilor Roscoe Turner abstained from voting.

"And until I die I am a child of God and I'm going to respect and honor his name as often as I can," Turner said.

Councilor John Eagleton, an attorney, was in a trial and didn't attend the meeting.

The discussion over religion centered on whether the title is inclusive, or offensive, to Christians and other religious groups. U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe brought attention to the name change by announcing he wouldn't take part because of it.

Parade organizer Larry Fox said only 2 other entries had cancelled.

"We have Santa, I'm sure many of the bands will be playing Christmas music and Christmas songs. If anybody wants to put Merry Christmas on their float, that's perfectly fine," Fox said.

Twelve people signed up to speak for and against the permit.

The first 5 speakers, like Bill O'Conner, board president of OCCJ, spoke in favor of the permit.

He told councilors that from a legal point of view, the council should approve the permit. Adding that it would 'certainly raise a host of legal implications,' if the city council denies the permit.

Another speaker, local attorney Greg Bledsoe says the city council "does not have a right to deny the parade permit because they disagree with the name."

Bledsoe argued "holiday" covers Christmas, as well as Jewish and Muslim, along with winter solstice and yule tide and "changing the name to holiday parade gives Christians a chance to share their joyous time of year with people of other faiths."

Blake Ewing, representing the Blue Dome District told councilors, "I think if Jesus were on the council, he would approve the permit."

Seven people spoke against issuing the permit, including Rev. Bill Tims of Love Christian Ministries. 

Jesse Bowers also spoke out against the permit.  Bowers said he dropped out of the parade in November after learning of the name change.  He told the council all the forms he filled out said "Christmas parade" until he received a November 22nd e-mail stating he was accepted into the parade and making note of the name change.

Fox told the council the parade's paperwork included the name Christmas when it was mailed out because they were without a sponsor.  But he added all the paperwork filed with the City of Tulsa as part of the permit process has the correct name, "McNellie's Holiday Parade of Lights."