Originally created 03/16/04

Irish group bans crosses from parade



Crosses are out. Shamrocks are in at the St. Patrick's Day parade in Augusta.

Organizers of the Irish-American Heritage Society's parade have refused to allow a youth group from the Alleulia Community to carry crosses in Wednesday's parade.

"Our position is we cannot be a platform for anyone's views, standpoints on politics, religion, race; it doesn't matter," parade Chairman Earl Lovering said. "We're basically celebrating St. Patrick's in the way the holiday has become to be known."

Bill Conkright, who runs the Alleulia youth ministry, said he couldn't believe his ears when he heard it, so he called the society's president, Sean Burke.

Mr. Conkright said Mr. Burke said the society had decided not to allow anything in their parade that would be controversial.

"He said they just decided they weren't going to put anything in their parade that would offend anybody," Mr. Conkright said. "And I said, 'The guy was a saint. Not only that, he was a Catholic bishop.' "

Mr. Conkright said Mr. Burke suggested the students carry shamrocks.

"St. Patrick used shamrocks to convert the whole country of Ireland to Christianity, explaining that the three leaves of the shamrock represent the Holy Trinity," Mr. Burke said. "We respectfully reserve the right - and have exercised that right in the past with the same criteria - that we can deny any entry in our parade that is not themed Irish or St. Patrick's Day-oriented," Mr. Burke said.

Mr. Conkright said the society's position is "so silly."

"The cross is nondenominational," he said. "All of the dominant religions recognize it. It might offend somebody like a Muslim or a Jew, but we wouldn't expect to put it in one of their parades."