The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


August 12, 2008

Space for all?

A Plainfield, Ill., church was recently denied a permit to hold a youth service and concert at a village amphitheater. Policy for community rooms and the public amphitheater allows for meetings and gatherings by “local businesses and civic, cultural, information and educational groups.” The spaces aren’t available for religious services (except weddings), private parties, or commercial, fundraising or political events.

Trustee Larry Vaupel was surprised the policy existed. In proposing a rule change, which the village board is expected to approve, he said: “Sometimes governments, in order to avoid establishing a religion, overstep their authority by excluding religion from the public square.”

The Chicago Tribune story noted a similar case in Van, Texas, where a prayer meeting was prohibited at a community center. A federal judge ruled in 2003 that the town’s policy was unconstitutional.

The Lutheran
explores the topic of separation of church and state in its September cover story (to be posted Aug. 23). In the meantime, what do you think? Do cities need to rethink policies regarding use of public meeting areas?

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