Monday, August 22, 2011

Olympia Confused About Religion

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The Department of General Administration say they are having a difficult time deciding which religious organizations can use public lands, parks, buildings, etc., and which cannot.

GA spokesman Jim Erskine says, "I have to say, I can see where it can be confusing."

Indeed it is. Two local churches denied, while other certain religious groups receive permission.

It is not only confusing. It is concerning. Here's what's happening. Here's my concern.

Mike Baker with Associated Press reports, "Washington administrators recently denied permits for two Olympia churches who asked to use state property for their religious exercises, even though officials previously approved other permits for spiritual activity."

Erskine told Baker, "It is something that I believe has to be looked at carefully---on a case by case basis."


The Washington State constitution says, "No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or support of any religious establishment."

Baker did his homework and found that some of the denials for use by churches or religious organizations "closely mirror other permits that have been approved in recent months."

Erskine says of the decision making process, "It is murky." It is "nuanced."

It is also subjective and that is my greatest concern.

Maybe Jane Rushford, acting director of the GA, Jim Erskine and others involved in the process have no personal agenda. I hope not. I don't know.

But I have personally seen strong personal bias in state government, particularly in the Secretary of State's office---specifically in the Elections Division during the signature count on R-71 and in the Attorney General's office in regard to our ongoing effort to keep sealed the names of those who signed R-71. In both cases it was related to our efforts to defend natural marriage. And I was not the only one who noticed it.

Put the phone down. Don't file the lawsuit. I am NOT accusing anyone of any wrong doing. I am saying I have seen bias. And so have others who believe in and defend natural marriage.

In the matter of which religious groups can and which cannot use parks, public buildings, etc., bias can play into the decision making.

Erskine says the decision making process is "murky" and the decisions are "nuanced."

Baker lists a number of examples in his article.

Here are 2 examples:

First. The Washington Christian Leaders Coalition got a permit for a public event at the Legislative Building this past March. The state provided a theater style set up and podium for speeches in the Legislative Building.

Washington Christian Leaders Coalition tends to associate and work with both the religious and political left in their religious activity and advocacy. This past year they have worked with the ACLU, Amnesty International, Center for Social Justice, the Church Council of Greater Seattle and the SEIU among others.

Yet, a local Olympia church was denied use of Heritage Park, not a legislative building with seating and podium---a park, last weekend for a barbecue and baptism ceremony.

Second: A "ministry" group was granted a full day last weekend to use Sylvester Park, where the organizers scheduled bands, "dream interpretations" and " words of encouragement."

A local church was denied their request to have a small tent and a speaker for an event next month (Sept.) because the state said their activity was "religious instruction."

Does that suggest you may employ Eastern mysticism for dream interpretation, but cannot use the Bible for personal guidance on public land?

Erskine says the GA is consulting with the Attorney General's office on these matters.

Therein is my concern. My A/G office deposition regarding the R-71 names was, as they say, a real eye opener.

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Active. Be Blessed.

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