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Reality Church Drops Litigation Threat Against Washington State

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By Andrea Marcela Madambashi, Christian Post Correspondent
August 17, 2011|5:26 pm

Reality Church has decided Tuesday night that it would not sue Washington state for refusing to grant it a permit for its church members to hold a baptism at Heritage Park on the Capitol Campus.

Paul Jones, the Pastor of Reality Church of Olympia, informed The Christian Post on Thursday that the Church has decided it would not pursue any further litigation in the matter.

In a press release, the church explained that its intention was to have its request to use the park reconsidered and not to push a political agenda.

"Our mission as a church is to live as a community in the ways of Jesus and to invite others to do the same. Any legal action would be inconsistent with our original goals for the event and inconsistent with our mission as a church family," the church states in the press release.

Although the church expressed its disappointment with the state's decision, it has notified the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) that it does not desire to proceed with legal action.

The dispute originally arose after church members had planned to hold a Sunday “picnic and baptism” at the park. The church applied for the appropriate permit from the Department of General Administration (GA), however, it was flatly turned down.

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GA, the state agency that oversees the park, alleges that the proposed baptism service was a violation of the state constitution.

“We approved their permit for the barbecue, but our state constitution does not allow public grounds or funds to be used for religious ceremonies so we got advice from our attorney general’s office and we denied their permit for the baptism,” GA spokesman Steve Valandra has said.

In response, the American Center for Law and Justice had filed an appeal with the state on the church’s behalf, but it was immediately denied.

The American Center for Law & Justice’ spokesman, Gene Kapp, who was representing the church in appealing its permit denial, said that “while the state agreed to permit the barbeque to move forward, it rejected the request for the baptism to take place.”

He added: “The denial of the Baptism ceremony represents a violation of our client's constitutional rights protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. We're disappointed that the state failed to permit our client to fully exercise his constitutional rights.”

Erskine, another GA spokesman, explained that there was an important difference between the freedom of expression of religious views, which is protected by the First Amendment, and the exercise of religion, which is not supported by public resources under the state Constitution.

Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s attorney had said that Christians were being treated as second-class citizens.

Rules do not allow private religious displays inside Capital Campus buildings, and this has been the case since a moratorium was made in December 2008, which came following displays by atheists, Christians, Jews.

However, other events of religious exercise have been permitted since then; a prayer rally was permitted near the campus’ Tivoli Fountain in 2009.

 

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