Preacher’s comments draw criticism; some cite First Amendment right

preacher parade

James Forrester, of Save Me from the Fire ministry, riding in a truck at the Main Street Crestview Christmas Parade, drew criticism for derogatory remarks.

MATTHEW BROWN | News Bulletin
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 03:35 PM.

CRESTVIEW — The Christmas parade on Main Street Saturday featured 125-plus groups that celebrated the holidays with floats spanning themes Biblical — Noah’s ark, angels — and traditional — Christmas story time, Island of Misfit Toys — along with guest appearances from popular children’s characters like Hello Kitty.

However, one parade participant, representing Save Me from the Fire ministry, drew criticism from a number of parade-goers for denying Santa Claus’ existence, shouting disparaging remarks about homosexuals and telling people they were going to hell from a megaphone.

Brian Gaines, the ministry’s founder and a student at a Pensacola Christian college, drove the truck while recording video footage for the organization’s website. James Forrester preached from the truck.

Following the parade, a number of attendees commented on the News Bulletin's website and Facebook page expressing their displeasure.  

"What control do the organizers have over the entries?" Tina Bannon said on "I was very upset with the man on a (megaphone) saying, ‘We are living in a sin-filled world … this world is going to burn.’”

“He said he hated to crush our dreams but Santa wasn’t real. My daughter was devastated,” Emily Self Hayes said. “You can’t say that at a Christmas parade where kids are there celebrating and waiting to see Santa.”

The ministry — which has participated in “a dozen parades in the area” since May, said Gaines, who defended the group’s message — plans to return next year and, in its own words, more negative than ever.

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