Kansas City Atheist Coalition
The Kansas City Atheist Coalition was denied participation in the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade this week because, according to the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee’s official statement, “Kansas City’s parade celebrates the Feast Day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and the Christian teachings and beliefs that he lived and suffered for. [ . . .] It was with respect for the legacy of St. Patrick that the parade committee turned down the Atheist Coalition’s application to participate in this year’s procession.”
The parade website, however, specifies that parade events are “open to all, Irish or not, Catholic or not.”
Participants in last year’s parade included the Kansas City Sheltie Rescue, an animal-rescue group; The Renaissance Festival; Bob Hamilton Plumbing; and Pepsi Beverage, all secular organizations.
“There have been and are multiple organizations participating in the parade who do not explicitly line up with Catholic beliefs — the International House of Prayer and K-Love Radio being prime examples in the past,” said Sarah Hargreaves, president of the Kansas City Atheist Coalition. “The fact that religious alignment with Catholicism has not been a criteria in the past seems discordant with this sudden new requirement.”
Josh Hyde, KCAC’s vice president, said that while the atheist group recognizes the importance of a private organization being able to set the rules for its own events, “It’s unfortunate that something that is so publicly perceived as a community event would choose to exclude members of the community for the simple fact that they have no religious belief.”
“We just want to be treated the same as everyone else,” Hargreaves added. “As active and contributing members to the Kansas City community — through support of local community programs such as Harvesters, Kansas City AIDS Walk and Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association — we feel we’ve earned a place alongside our fellow community members to show our pride in Kansas City.”
“Year after year the parade has included secular traditions of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, such as shamrocks, leprechauns and drinking green beer. I think it is pretty clear, the parade committee now claims the parade is a deeply Catholic event only as a justification and rationalization of their patent religious discrimination against atheists,” commented Lindsey Burns, a member of the Kansas City Atheist Coalition.