Revision allows religious gatherings in Metro Parks

Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 12:28am

Regular religious gatherings will be permitted in Metro Parks after The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Metro Board of Parks and Recreation agreed to a policy revision.

The ACLU and the board worked to alter a policy that prohibited student organizations from organizing weekly church services for the homeless. The change will allow groups of up to 25 people to meet regularly without obtaining a permit.

In September 2008, students from Middle Tennessee State University, Belmont University and Tennessee Tech University organized the “Church on Church Street” on Sunday mornings at the park across the street from the library, holding worship services and ministering to the homeless.

However, Metro Police shut them down in March 2009 for organizing without a permit.

Regular religious gatherings will be permitted in Metro Parks after The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Metro Board of Parks and Recreation agreed to a policy revision.

According to the students, when they tried to obtain a permit, Metro Parks rebuffed them, citing board policy that proscribed regular religious activity in park facilities.

“I understand the government’s desire to enforce the law, but when the law infringes upon our personal right to speak our minds and our human longing to share our hearts, we cannot be silent,” said Cory Wigal, Belmont student and “Church Street” organizer.

Wigal eventually approached the ACLU of Tennessee, who sent a letter to the board in late April explaining that the parks board policy unconstitutionally burdened free speech and free exercise of religion.

“Nashville should always protect its residents’ right to worship freely,” said David Briley, ACLU Tennessee cooperating attorney. “The old parks department policy imposed unreasonable restrictions on my client’s ability to hold church services for those in need and did little if anything to promote the goals of the parks department."

 

 

 

5 Comments on this post:

By: trtay2004 on 10/8/09 at 8:55

I love it when everyone works together to get to a solution that will help the people that need the most help.

By: Jeremiah_29-7 on 10/8/09 at 9:58

Hope people notice that the ACLU helped pull this together. Some folks think the ACLU is against religion, when they are just trying to make sure that we all get treated fairly. Way to go!

By: govskeptic on 10/8/09 at 10:41

This agreement shows that Metro Parks had been acting under
fear rather than good legal advice when they established their
previous rules. David Briley and the ACLU recognized this and
knew the students might win in court or on an appeal.

It is good that the agreement came together rather than through
a court action!

By: pswindle on 10/8/09 at 10:50

I'm still concerned that we are mixing church and state.

By: sidneyames on 10/8/09 at 5:54

swindle, if everyone LIVED by the 10 commandments, we'd have no crime, no adultry, and not theft. I'm not sure if "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is not such a bad idea. As a matter of fact, if everyone treated each other with respect and love, then that would be nice. So a little church at the park can go a long way, unlesss it's a church that wants everyone dead, aka, Jim Jones.