Friday, July 19, 2024

Religious symbols will be allowed in Coeur d'Alene parade

Staff Writer | July 2, 2024 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber on Monday reversed a new policy that banned religious symbols from its Fourth of July parade. 

“The original policy was not meant to isolate individuals or be considered an anti-religious policy,” wrote Linda Coppess, chamber president and CEO in response to questions from The Press. 

Under parade regulations adopted by the chamber board this year, “Symbols associated with specific political movements, religions, or ideologies” were unacceptable. 

Coppess wrote that in the past, the chamber received numerous complaints about displays that people found offensive, including “Confederate flags, derogatory illustrations, harsh politically-based language, and graphic photographs.” 

Coppess wrote that last year alone, she received over 50 complaints about different signage and symbols that were deemed offensive. 

To address those concerns, the chamber consulted national organizations to ensure its guidelines were transparent and fair, she wrote. 

“Our intention with this policy was simple: to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected,” Coppess wrote. 

The chamber listed several other things as unacceptable for the parade, including signs promoting controversial political issues, displays containing divisive or inflammatory language related to political debates and signs displaying slogans or messages that incite political division or unrest. 

“We admire that you are passionate about what you believe in, but this parade is NOT the platform for promoting individual beliefs,” it states on the chamber’s website under its “Signage Policy.” 

But an outcry gained momentum over the weekend and after criticism, “misunderstandings and accusations," the board reconsidered and made “an exception for the religious symbols." 

Coppess wrote that, “As a person of deep faith, the recent events and accusations have been especially heartbreaking.  

“Our goal for the Fourth of July Parade is to create a celebration that honors our military, fosters family-friendly fun, and respects all attendees," she wrote. "This year, we introduced guidelines to ensure we honor America’s military and not open the door to offensive displays. While we understand the significance of various symbols, we intend to keep the parade welcoming for everyone.” 

Paul Van Noy, president of the Kootenai County Ministerial Association and pastor of Candlelight Christian Fellowship church, said he was pleased religious symbols would be in the parade. 

"Any and all religious symbols should be allowed,” he said. 

Van Noy said the issue made its way to the attention of Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson and Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher. 

Neither Johnson nor Fulcher could be reached for comment. 

“Everybody should have their right to be represented faithfully and properly,” Van Noy said.  

Acceptable signage for the parade includes slogans like “Happy Independence Day," messages promoting unity and togetherness, and signs honoring veterans, active-duty military personnel and first responders. 

Other unacceptable signage included campaign materials promoting ballot measures or political initiatives; and any signage promoting political events or fundraisers and images or messages "that directly attack or antagonize individuals or groups based on their political beliefs or affiliations."

According to the chamber, failure to comply with its rules “will result in immediate removal from the parade,” but Coppess wrote they don’t expect that to be an issue since religious symbols are being allowed. 

“We hope parade participants and attendees will gather to safely celebrate our nation’s birthday with kindness and good cheer," Coppess wrote.