FFRF asks Colo. town council to end preferential treatment of local church

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking the Dillon Town Council to follow the advice of its former attorney and end a local church’s exclusive use of the town’s amphitheater for Sunday worship services. The town’s attorney resigned last week over the issue.

The Town Council has a longstanding informal agreement with Dillon Community Church giving it exclusive access to the Dillon Amphitheater for its Sunday services. It rejected on June 11 a recommendation from its attorney, Kathleen Kelly, to create a policy clarifying what groups can use the amphitheater, opting instead to continue granting privileged access to the church. As a result, Kelly resigned. The Dillon Town Council is meeting on Wednesday, June 19, to deal with the fallout.

Granting exclusive, long-term use of the amphitheater to Dillon Community Church for its worship services raises serious constitutional concerns and likely violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, FFRF points out.

“Allowing the church to use the amphitheater every week to the exclusion of all other churches, religious organizations and/or other secular community groups or individuals who wish to use this public facility impermissibly advances religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Dillon Mayor Carolyn Skowyra. “This arrangement demonstrates not only the town’s preference for religion over nonreligion, but also a favoritism of Christianity over all other faiths and Dillon Community Church over all other churches.”

A related issue is that Dillon Community Church is benefitting from the more inexpensive rental of public property. Public resources are generally cheaper than private facilities and the church appears to be taking advantage of the low usage rates for its worship services. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy and must be discontinued, FFRF insists.

The Town Council did Dillon and its people a great constitutional disservice in rejecting the advice of the attorney — causing her resignation. It should reconsider at the Wednesday special meeting.

“The cozy favoritism that the town has been engaging in toward the Dillon Community Church is discriminatory and exclusionary,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Dillon Town Council needs to come to its senses on Wednesday.”

The full FFRF letter can be read here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,300 members and two chapters in Colorado. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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