San Francisco, California — April 15, 2021. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) sent a demand letter to the City of San Francisco on behalf of Alex Stewart and Andrew Conway in order to secure their church’s freedom to worship and speak in San Francisco public parks without restrictions.
Stewart and Conway are leaders with a Christ Forgiveness Ministries church in the San Francisco Bay area and need public spaces for their worship gatherings. The church seeks to meet in public San Francisco parks for their Sunday worship services but have been repeatedly hindered by park officials from meeting without a permit. On Sunday, January 24, 2021, Christ Forgiveness Ministries held a worship service outside at the Palace of Fine Arts but during the service a park officer came and issued a citation to Stewart claiming that according to San Francisco park code a permit is required for a “concert” or “musical performance”. Despite disagreeing with the City’s depiction of their worship service the church paid the fine and proceeded to meet in other various parks through out the city for worship and were met time and time again by officers issuing similar citations.
Following this string of citations, Stewart and Conway still yearned for a resolution that would allow the church to worship in a public park. Conway then contacted the park department hoping to secure a permit for their church to have the right to worship without a citation. But upon contacting the park department Conway discovered they must obtain a permit whenever they use amplification, a table, and they must have less than 50 people at a service. They requested access to U. N. Plaza but were denied and reassigned to McClaren Park that is not a suitable space without amplification. Left with no other option, Conway and Stewart reached out to CRE for help.
“People have the right to worship in public parks without governmental interference” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “These roadblocks to worship, set up by the city of San Francisco, are a clear violation of the First Amendment.”