Advertisement

Archive for Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Neighbor questions church’s use of school

October 1, 2013

Advertisement

Most days, people driving past Liberty Memorial Central Middle School at 14th and Massachusetts Street would easily recognize the building as a public school.

But on Sunday mornings, a large banner is tethered to the pillars of the school building to advertise that on that day, it is also a place of worship for a local congregation called the Vintage Church, and at least one local resident has questioned whether that's constitutional.

"It seems wrong that a church is holding service at a taxpayer funded, public school," Tandis Bidgoli, an east Lawrence resident, said in an email to the Journal-World. "I don't have a problem with churches, just not in our public schools."

But school district officials say there is nothing unconstitutional about it, and they cite at least two federal court cases from the 1980s that say it's not about the government establishing a religion, but about allowing free speech.

"If the school board allows outside community groups to use school buildings, and it does, the district cannot discriminate against a particular group's use of a facility because of its philosophies, ideas or opinions," district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said. "The First Amendment prohibits discrimination against a group based on the content of its speech."

One of the cases the district cited was a 1983 case involving the Shawnee Mission school district in which a federal court in Kansas said that allowing a church to use facilities on the same basis as any other group does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Bidgoli, however, said she was especially concerned about the church being allowed to hang a sign on the school building.

"It's a pretty prominent sign," she said. "There are children in the neighborhood who are probably confused by that when they go by it."

Boyle said the contract between the church and the school does not contain any provision about signage. But Deacon Godsey, lead pastor of the church, said he had not heard any complaints about it.

"It's a temporary sign," Godsey said. "We put it up with bands and ropes 45 minutes before the service and take it down about 15 minutes after."

Godsey described Vintage Church as a nondenominational congregation with a little more than 200 members that has been meeting at the school regularly for about three years.

"I came on staff in 2011, and they'd been meeting there for a year before that," Godsey said.

Before that, he said, the church had met at the Lawrence Arts Center and, before that, on the Kansas University campus.

Boyle said the district charges different rental rates for different groups, depending on the amount of time they need, whether the event will require overtime costs for custodial staff, and whether the group is a non-profit or for-profit organization.

She said that under the current contract, which runs from July 2013 to June 2014, the church pays $430 for each meeting.

Currently, Boyle said, no other churches rent school facilities on a regular basis, although some occasionally use them for specific events such as basketball tournaments or youth club meetings.

Education news

More Education News

  • First Bell Blog
  • Schools and Education news
  • Comments

    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    The easy (and best) answer to a simple problem is to explain the "problem" to your children. They're no longer confused and the "problem" is solved.

    It appears you're the one with the problem and not your children.

    1

    oldbaldguy 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    why are we still talking about this, including me?

    0

    Michael Rowland 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    What a stupid little non-issue from someone who wants a meager 15 minutes of fame. Vintage pays rent. They aren't there on the public dime. If they weren't renting the school then the building would probably stand empty on Sundays, not making the school any additional money. The sign is temporary and comes down when not in use. It's a middle school, I doubt they'd be confused by a church's sign out in front of their school. If they're curious about it, then they can have a conversation with their parents about how freedom of religion means anyone can practice whatever religion they want and meet wherever they legally can so long as they do not impinge upon the freedom of others. And, yes, it would still be fine if Muslims wanted to rent the building, or Hindus, or Jews. Saying that it is ok for Christians to rent a school but not ok for Muslims is bigoted and goes against the freedom of religion. Get over yourselves.

    2

    bearded_gnome 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    and, as a practicing christian, I would add I wouldn't recommend this church to christians. .

    But they have our charished freedom to worship just as muslims do in our country.

    0

    bearded_gnome 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    "It seems wrong that a church is holding service at a taxpayer funded, public school," Tandis Bidgoli, an east Lawrence resident, said in an email to the Journal-World. "I don't have a problem with churches, just not in our public schools."

    ---why is this in the paper at all? nonissue, except one uncivil leftist joining David guth and Megan May (of manhattan, who put down members of the military).

    0

    Bob Forer 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    A non-issue. They pay rent. They put the sign up before services and take it down afterwards. Folks, find some real issues to deal with.

    6

    bearclaws 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Readers question reporter's use of time.

    4

    tomatogrower 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I don't have any problem with this if they are paying for the facilities, and as long as they don't try to push their church on any students by leaving flyers behind.

    1

    toe 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Christians had better get with the program or they will not be treated at any government medical facility and their own facilities will be shuttered.

    0

    patkindle 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I do not believe any Christians are causing any problems the problems seem to be from non christians, as far as this young lady I think she has too much time on her hands, and has more important things to focus on

    2

    gatekeeper 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    As long as they're paying rent, cool. Make some money for the district.

    What I'm sick of are the church's coming around and trying to get me to come to their church, leaving fliers, etc.... If I want to go to church, I will. I don't need to be bothered at home by congregations telling me why I need to come to their church. I consider it harassment. The church I attended growing up never did that.

    2

    patkindle 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I know it is all about freedom of religion .but lots of folks are getting tired of these religions that want to take over with their own doctrines and laws .

    4

    yourworstnightmare 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Part of living in a democracy is learning to live with things you don't like but that are legal.

    Christians especially need to learn this lesson.

    10

    gmanobmo 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I'm okay with this especially if it's a way for the school to collect some easy additional funds.

    However, would it be okay if some Muslims wanted to do the same thing?

    6

    foxli 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I would have been uncomfortable with this if they weren't paying rent, but since they're covering expenses, and it's not during school hours (obviously), I don't have a problem with it.

    I went to school in Olathe and they do a similar thing. I didn't like it as a student, but now I know that these organizations are compensating the district for costs.

    3

    Hooligan_016 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Wow, and the headline out of a certain Kansas City "news" radio station is "Controversy explodes in Lawrence over a church using a school!"

    Nope, no hyperbole there at all.

    3

    brutus 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Church services used to be held it the old Kaw Valley School, Wakarusa Valley, and more recently at South Middle. It is nothing new.

    3

    Floyd Craig 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    maybe sh needs to go to it she just might find what shes never found why bother them they aren't knocking on your door for u to come n visit them now are they and I thnk if the building is empty on sunday why not make use of it we all need a little time to worship some time some where give them a break and may god bless you

    0

    oldbaldguy 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    some folks have too much time on their hands. such as us commenting about this and the lady who made the inquiry. absolutely nothing wrong with this.

    1

    DrQuack 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Very well put, UltimateGrownup! You not only write well, you have good common sense.

    0

    akt2 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Some people should just grow up and not worry about what goes on Sunday mornings in the building if it doesn't involve them. It might be a public school, but it is also a public building. I doubt that this complainer even has a child. If the person did, they would have more important things to worry about than a sign.

    5

    fu7il3 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Children are probably confused by it? Seriously? Why do people always try to pull kids into the things they themselves don't like?

    10

    Alpenglow 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    One person complains and you make a big story out of it, Peter. Seriously? Much ado about nothing. I'm annoyed because there was only one person working the box office at the movies on Saturday and the line was really long. I expect to see an investigative story on this immediately!

    12

    hillsandtrees 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    When our church was in the early stages of forming, we used a local school on Sunday mornings for services. I know we had to pay the school district for the use - the cover janitor, utilities, etc.

    3

    Roland Gunslinger 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I'm not religious at all. Don't have a problem with this.

    I do, however, question this statement:"...the district cannot discriminate against a particular group's use of a facility because of its philosophies, ideas or opinions"

    So if a Aryan nation, or NAMBLA group, or even a swinger's group wanted to use the districts facilities to hold an event they would be allowed to? Somehow I doubt it.

    7

    Steven Gaudreau 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Boyle, Are ur kids confused when they drive by a church? If not, tell them the school is used by a church on sundays just like the church buildings they see all over town. If they are still confused, then maybe you should question how the schools are being used monday thru friday when your kids are attending them. Or, rather then hiding behind your kids, why not just come out and say you are anti church and dont want religious individuals to have freedom of speech?

    0

    Rex Hargis 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I find it difficult to believe that children attending middle school would be confused by the sign posted on Sundays. If they are, a simple question to their parents should be enough to clear up the confusion.

    12

    Paul R Getto 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    This is proper, good community service and legal.

    1

    Glenn Reed 6 months, 3 weeks ago

    Given the fact that the facility would otherwise be empty, I don't see any problem with this. If there was evidence of preferential treatment, there might be.

    6

    Commenting has been disabled for this item.