Piedmont, Alabama's annual Christmas parade hit a snag last week when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) protested its theme.
The parade committee selected "Keep Christ in Christmas" as the parade's motto, but the FFRF called the choice "alienating" and unconstitutional.
The annual parade includes beauty pageant winners, Santa Claus, the championship Piedmont High School track team, and the school marching band.
"We try to honour our kids and we try to give recognition to those who do well," Mayor Bill Baker told Fox News. "We're proud to have them leading the parade."
Baker also said that the small community has a church on nearly every street corner, and he did not think twice about the Christian parade theme until receiving a letter from the FFRF.
"It was a great theme," he insisted. "I was totally shocked when I received the letter. It's a small town. It's a small Christmas parade. We didn't think there would be any problems at all."
The letter alleged that a Piedmont resident had complained about the theme, and that the motto "alienates non-Christians and others in Piedmont who do not in fact have a 'strong belief in prayers' by turning them into political outsiders in their own community".
FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel went on to say that "the sentiment of 'Keeping Christ in Christmas' does not qualify as a secular celebration", and urged the city to choose a "more appropriate, more inclusive, and constitutional theme" for the parade.
The parade committee dropped the theme, but Baker said the parade participants did not change.
"Nothing has really changed," he admitted. "We still have the same religious floats. We still have the churches. We still have the beauty queens. We're still going to have this wonderful Christian parade regardless of if we have a theme or not."
There were also Piedmont citizens carrying signs that read "Let's Keep Christ in Christmas."
"They paid their entry fees," Baker explained. "It's a positive march – it's not a protest march. They are keeping the theme alive even though legally we had to do away with it.
"The town has rallied," he continued. "I appreciate all the citizens who got on Facebook and the telephone and talked to each other. It's heartwarming to me to see the Christian response that has developed."