The Progress(iveness) of a Small Town Christmas Parade

Salisbury, NC, is a quaint historical Southern town established in the colonial days of 1753. Located in the heart of the Bible Belt, the city has still managed to maintain its downhome Mayberry-esque persona. However, in November, 2017, such an uproar occurred in the aftermath of the local Christmas parade that organizers decided to shut the event down rather than continue the 58-year tradition. In a letter posted online in July, 2018, parade organizers announced: “At last year’s parade on November 22, 2017, an entry with a pre-meditated, full of hate, assumptions and lack of knowledge caused a scene that has forever impacted Salisbury historically as far as the future of the Holiday Caravan Parade.”

According to parade officials, during pre-check four hours before the launch of the event, organizers were forced to call police after a confrontation and standoff with the fill-in guests on one of the floats which had been sponsored by the local branch of Avita Pharmacy. Avita had filled out the proper paperwork which required minute details about float design, decorations, and riders. But it appears that an Avita executive, had, unbeknownst to parade officials, substituted local members of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) – along with their organization’s shirts and rainbow banners – onto the Avita float. This was in clear violation of parade rules and indicated the local gay rights group planned to use the pharmacy float as a Trojan Horse to sneak into the parade unawares and unapproved. The float’s riders were given the choice to abandon their Agenda, or be removed from the parade.

According to Avita and PFLAG this was a clear case of “hate,” homophobia and discrimination. PFLAG asserts they had paid the $200 entry fee to participate in the parade for the past three years, but had been turned down and had their check returned without being given a reason each time. Avita pointed to their longstanding relationship with the local LGBT community and claimed that, after their own original planned participants had to bail at the last minute, PFLAG altruistically stepped in to help them out. They also claimed that other approved floats were not subjected to the same scrutiny and letter of the law. However, after local police were called, (and a quick publicity photo taken), the Avita float riders decided to withdraw rather than comply.

An example of Avita Pharmacy’s float from previous years

After this turn of events, the 2017 parade went on seemingly as usual and, except for a few local stories in the town newspaper, a mention or two in the much larger Charlotte media and articles on LGBT news sites, it seemed not many in the local area were caught up in the controversy or even aware that it had occurred. However, that changed in the summer of 2018 when parade organizers released a letter abruptly announcing they were pulling the plug on the Holiday Caravan due to the harassment they had received at their homes and places of business since that fateful day back in November of 2017. They also feared that LGBT advocates would follow through on threats to publicly protest the next parade. But they danced around what seems the obvious issue: the organizers (many of whom had served on the parade committee for decades) did not want to deal with the fallout of having an explicitly LGBT message in the local Christmas parade. Instead they issued a general statement that “we also have the same ‘rights’ to decline participation at our events from any group or organization which does not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization.”

At this point the controversy hit home with the surrounding community as editorials and public comments in the local newspaper debated the actions and consequences. The older generation wanted things to just go back to the way they had always been and didn’t see why there had to be such trouble in the first place. The Conservative community wanted to take a stand against what they saw as an encroaching Gay Agenda, but saw no way of doing so. The younger generation and area Progressives argued for “love and inclusion” and events that “represent the entire community.” But the biggest concern was not over standards of morality or religious tenets, but over whether or not the parade would even go on “for the children.”

LGBT groups at the local, state, and national levels, were quick to portray parade volunteers as a bunch of out-of-touch homophobes who decided that, rather than get with the times, they would rather just take their parade and go home. As the website LGBTQ Nation described it: “…the organizers got an earful from outraged residents and from around the nation. Now they’re blaming the response they got to their decision to ban the LGBTQ group for canceling the 58-year tradition altogether. The thin-skinned organizers would rather shut it down than ensure that everyone was welcome to join them.”

The Avita executive at the heart of the controversy also posted what appeared to be proof of the threats and harassment she received as well.

How did a little town like Salisbury get to this point? Though the Holiday Parade was a single event, this turn of events did not happen spontaneously or in a vacuum. There have been many incremental Progressive battles over the past decade in this little town the locals refer to as “Smalls-bury” which culminated in this latest LGBT episode. This is an overview of the connected players and events that show how the Left works to add victory after victory in their never-ending quest to expand their influence and further their Agenda:

1. The combined force of an ever more radicalized Democrat Party backed by big corporations has changed the daily life of even smaller communities once thought to be “safe spaces” from the Progressive onslaught.

Avita Pharmacy is a national company headquartered in Louisiana which lends strong support to several LGBTQ causes. The local Avita executive at the center of the parade controversy, Veleria Levy is a longtime Democrat activist and perennial candidate. As businesses become more politically active at the local level and the Democrat Party continues to push for more Progressive policies in the smaller more historically traditional areas of the country, these two central players were perfect for their role in pushing small-town boundaries.

2. The social acceptance of Progressive ideology by younger generations and the weaponizing of PC code words leaves those in opposition unable to explain their point of view or engage in honest debate.

The area newspaper, The Salisbury Post, wrote an editorial castigating parade organizers for refusing to carry on with the event, wrote articles with PFLAG’s version

of the event without questioning its spokesperson’s conflicting account, and after commenters noted how one of the PFLAG members was flipping off the audience in the Avita float publicity shot, switched to using another photo in subsequent stories. The frequent reader comments accusing those who supported parade organizers or defended traditional values as “haters” and “homophobes” illustrate how this debate has deteriorated at even the small-town local level and those who espouse Biblical values in what is known as the Bible belt are marginalized by their own neighbors.

3. The public-school system was surrendered in an effort to show “fairness” and “tolerance” and now serves as a recruitment base for future Progressive leadership at the local level.

In 2006 the Salisbury-Rowan School Board had voted unanimously to not allow the formation of LGBTQ type clubs in area high schools. A mere 6 years later, the Board reversed this policy in a controversial vote which was only supposed to bring the local school system “into compliance with Federal laws.” However, the gay community had their opening and PFLAG immediately announced they would be awarding scholarships

at the upcoming high school graduation ceremonies, thus making them a legitimate partner in local education.

4. Activists, with backing from key local officials, worked behind the scenes for years to lay the groundwork for a showcase event that appeared to occur spontaneously overnight.

Salisbury hosted their first Pride event in 2011. The most notable episode of the first year was when the Pastor of the only church to be issued a protest permit (most likely because he and his congregation fit the description of the stereotypical “ignorant homophobic Bible thumpers”) was kissed by a lesbian activist and filed assault charges against her. The Pride event has grown yearly and now nearly 7,000 people attend each year – in a city of only 34,000. As one LGBTQ outlet comments: “LGBTQ Pride celebrations have been held in North Carolina’s major cities for decades. But they are much less common in the state’s small cities like Salisbury.”

5. Powerful community leaders embraced Progressive ideology and used their financing and influence to implement local programs to shape and change the traditional culture.

Salisbury is unusual from most small cities its size in that it is the hometown and headquarters for two highly successful corporations, the Food Lion grocery chain and the Stanback pharmaceutical company. PFLAG named scholarships after both company’s founders. Both of these corporations actively promote the LGBTQ agenda in this little town through both direct donations and sponsorship. Ironically, the descendants of both company founders Linda Ketner and Anne Stanback are lesbian activists. So, whether or not the local citizens actually support the LGBT agenda, they are, in essence, donating money to the cause in their own city with every purchase they make from these companies.

6. “The salt has lost its savor.”

The ultimate responsibility for this noticeable community shift, as with that of the nation at large, must lie with the local churches and individual members. Though one Salisbury church began hosting an annual Gay Men’s Choir Christmas concert in 2011, not all departure from traditional Biblical teachings is as obvious. Many Christians have been co-opted by a “God is Love” doctrine which takes no stand for the less popular “hateful” commandments. Others are silenced by the admonition to “judge not” or are in fear that pointing a finger at the gay community will result in millions more fingers pointing back at them with embarrassing consequences. A Romans 1 society begins its downward trajectory with “lust,” which is a personal and unseen sin. But if not repented, personal impurity quickly leads to outward manifestations of inward sinfulness. It is only after a long line of condemning behaviors which the modern American church excuses or glosses over (from pornography, to premarital sex, to out of wedlock birth, to adultery, to divorce, to “shacking up,” etc.) that the Bible then lists homosexuality – but that is too often the only point where Christians suddenly want to draw the line and express outrage.

Keeping PFLAG out of a local Christmas parade or banning their clubs from the local school system would not make the difference. It was not one isolated single thing that brought this small country town to this current controversy. It is confession of our own individual sin that leads to true spiritual revival that is so desperately needed.

Oh, and what happened to the parade? It was taken over by a new group of community volunteers, rechristened “Tis the Season Spectacular” and declared an overwhelming success. It also showcased not just one, but two specifically LGBTQ themed floats sponsored by PFLAG and Salisbury Pride.

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