Fairfax, Virginia — December 1, 2016. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) sent a letter on behalf of Shepherd’s Heart Anglican Church to City of Fairfax officials, requesting they abandon a policy of refusing to issue special event permits to groups that intend to express Christian messages, particularly, Christian music, in a public park.
Shepherd’s Heart cares about its community, and wanted to give back to the people of Fairfax, by hosting a special event in Old Town Square, a public park. The event would have been free and open to the public, offering a concert along with free hotdogs and drinks.
At first, Fairfax indicated it could issue a permit for the event, realizing the event would involve music. But, when Fairfax learned that Shepherd’s Heart intended to play contemporary Christian music at the event, Fairfax backed up and out, and informed that it could only issue permits for “non-religious” concerts and events. Shepherd’s Heart was thereby prohibited from having its community-oriented event as planned.
CRE sent a letter to Fairfax on behalf of Shepherd’s Heart, pointing out the unconstitutional nature of its ban targeting religious music in a public park. The letter explains the government cannot disfavor public religious expression on the basis of content, asking Fairfax to abandon its egregious policy.
“Shepherd’s Heart has the right to use a public park on the same terms as anyone else; Fairfax cannot ban religious music just because it is religious,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The First Amendment guarantees public places as appropriate venues for religious expression.”