Should city-owned property be used to publicize a church’s upcoming event?
Several weeks ago, Foundations Bible Church of Winnebago erected a banner in front of City Hall to sponsor a community Vacation Bible School (VBS).
“I don’t think those at City Hall have gotten any phone calls on it,” says Mayor Scott Robertson. “I kind of wondered at the time, if it should be put up. But I did not want to make any waves.”
According to city officials, the local Baptist church —- now called Foundations Bible Church — has called the past several years seeking permission to post a sign advertising the VBS.
This year’s banner probably was more visible because it was larger, says Robertson, better constructed and secured.
The Sharefaith Kids VBS was held July 18th through the 22nd and for children ages preschool through fifth grade.
While types of signs and their usage are outlined in the city’s zoning ordinance, it does not address if they are allowed on city property.
Letting a church use city property to promote an event has the perception of government endorsing a Christian religion.
That is contrary to the First Amendment’s idea of “separation of church and state” that says government should remain neutral toward all religions and not favor one over another.
Although highly unlikely, one has to ask how city officials would respond if a non-Christian religious asks to put up a sign in front of City Hall to promote an event.