Fairfax, Virginia — October 27, 2017. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) secured a victory for Shepherd’s Heart Anglican Church today, through an Agreed Order preventing City of Fairfax officials from enforcing a policy that denied special event permits to groups intending to express Christian messages in public parks.
Seeking to give back to the Fairfax community, Shepherd’s Heart sought a special event permit to hold a free public concert in Old Town Square, a public park and give away free hotdogs and drinks. But when the City learned that the concert would feature contemporary Christian music, it refused to issue a permit because the music was religious. CRE sent a letter to the City, asking it to cease its unconstitutional policy and treat Shepherd’s Heart like any other group, but the City declined, asserting that Christian music would violate the Establishment Clause.
Left with no other option, Shepherd’s Heart filed a federal lawsuit – and won. The City surrendered its unconstitutional policy, ensuring that Shepherd’s Heart is now free to hold an event on the same terms as any other group and play music consistent with its identity.
“As the Supreme Court has held on numerous occasions, private religious expression does not violate the Establishment Clause, so the government has no legitimate interest in censoring it,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Rather, Fairfax must treat Shepherd’s Heart fairly.”